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Basil Pesto Sauce

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Homemade basil pesto sauce is a delicious and healthy way to jazz up your meals. And this pesto fresco is packed with fresh, zesty flavors, and the sauce is perfect for adding a boost of flavor to any dish. Plus, you can make it with organic ingredients for an organic pesto sauce. Or use Thai or purple basil for a twist on traditional pesto. Get the recipe and make some today!

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pesto sauce in a white bowl with walnuts, garlic, basil and parsley in the background

Why I Love Homemade Pesto Sauce

It’s delicious and Fresh

I used to love store-bought basil pesto sauces like Classico Pesto and Kirkland Pesto, but once I tasted fresh pesto sauce, it was love at first taste!

You cannot beat the bright, zesty flavor from pesto fresco or fresh basil pesto.

Plus, basil pesto is healthier than other oil-based sauces. It contains antioxidants from the basil. And garlic has anti-inflammatory properties.

pesto sauce on a mortar and pestle with basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic in the background

It has many uses

There are many ways to use basil pesto sauce. One of my favorites is using it for pasta dishes like our pesto pasta salad and pesto gnocchi.

Basil pesto can also be used as a pizza sauce or dip for a pizza crust. Or even as a spread for a sandwich or wrap.

Pesto is also great as a sauce for chicken or fish. The options are endless when it comes to using basil pesto!

By making homemade basil pesto, you can make it into organic pesto sauce using organic ingredients. You can also grow organic basil at home, so fresh herbs are available anytime you need them.

You can even try different types of basil for this pesto sauce, like Thai basil, Italian basil, sweet basil, and purple basil for a different flavor.

Best of all, this pesto recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make!

pesto penne on a white bowl with herbs, garlic, and pesto sauce on a jar in the background

If you love this sauce, then you’ll also love our Pesto Vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients Notes and Substitutions


  • Toasted pine nuts – these are the base of our basil pesto sauce. If you can’t find toasted pine nuts in the grocery store, you can toast raw nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. You can also use different nuts like cashew, pistachio, almond, or walnut.

    You can also make this sauce without pine nuts. Just swap the pine nuts for an equal amount of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or even finely grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Garlic – adding garlic to your pesto sauce will give it a delicious flavor. Don’t forget this important ingredient.
  • Lemon juice – Adds brightness and freshness to pesto. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is key, so don’t use bottled juice. Substitute with lime juice if you don’t have lemon juice.
  • Fresh basil leaves – Use fresh basil that’s not wilted or brown for the best pesto sauce.
  • Parmesan cheese – gives the sauce a salty and nutty flavor. You can also use pecorino Romano in place of parmesan.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – this helps to thin the sauce. I recommend using high-quality, robust olive oil that can handle the strong flavors of basil and parmesan.
ingredients for pesto sauce which contains basil, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice

Kitchen tools needed for Making Pesto Sauce

How to Make Basil Pesto Sauce

In a food processor bowl, combine the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice.

Pulse until the garlic and nuts are broken up into small pieces.

pine nuts garlic and lemon juice blended in a food processor

Add the basil and parmesan and blend until the basil is broken into small pieces.

toasted pine nuts, basil, and parmesan mixed in a food processor

With the food processor on low, slowly add the olive oil. Keep pulsing until the basil pesto sauce is smooth and lump-free.

Then add salt and pepper to taste.

all mixed up ingredients for pesto sauce with olive oil in a food processor

You can either set the pesto sauce aside until you are ready to use it or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Recipe Variations

  • Purple basil pesto: to make purple basil pesto, just swap purple basil for the traditional green basil.
  • Thai basil pesto: substitute Thai basil for the Italian basil for your pesto. Thai basil pesto is ideal for recipes that cook using pesto in cooking. Unlike Italian basil, Thai basil has leaves that stand up well to heat.
  • Arugula pesto: Arugula pesto is another great option. Just swap arugula for the basil, and you’re good to go!
  • Vegan or dairy-free pesto: to make this sauce without cheese, substitute parmesan cheese for similar vegan cheese, or just leave it out completely.
a bowl of caprese tortellini salad with a fork and hand in the image

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do with leftover organic pesto?

I like to use it on pizza, bruschetta, garlic bread, and even add it to alfredo sauce. 

Should pesto be heated?

You can enjoy pesto cold or at room temperature. If you want to heat it, do so carefully. Pesto is best when it’s fresh, so only heat it if you plan on using it right away. Gently reheat the pesto in a pan over low heat, stirring often. Or, use Thai basil for the pesto sauce (see above in recipe variations). It can handle heat better than other types of basil.

Can I freeze basil pesto sauce?

I love this recipe fresh, but you can also freeze pesto sauce! If you have leftover or extra sauce, add it to a small ice cube tray. After the pesto sauce freezes (about 1-2 hours), pop the cubes out and put them in a ziplock bag. Mark the date on the bag and use it within 6 months. Then, let it thaw before using.

Why does my pesto taste like grass?

If your pesto tastes like grass, it is probably because you used too much basil or the basil is not fresh. Next time, be sure your basil is fresh, and don’t pack it so tightly when measuring for a brighter, fresher flavor.

three clear jars with pesto sauce, olive oil, and pine nuts

Get the Full Pesto Sauce Recipe Here

a white bowl with pesto sauce with walnuts and basil on the sides
Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

Basil Pesto Sauce

Once you try homemade pesto sauce, there's no going back to store-bought. You'll love the bright, fresh, zesty flavors in this fresh basil pesto sauce.
Course condiment, sauce
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta sauce, vegetarian, pesto, pesto recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 183kcal


  • food processor


  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves tightly packed
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated or shredded
  • cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Combine the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the garlic and nuts are broken up into small pieces.
  • Add the basil and parmesan and pulse until the basil is broken up into small pieces as well.
  • With the food processor on low, slowly add the olive oil. Continue to pulse until the pesto is smooth and lump-free. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Set aside until ready to use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


  • Pine nuts are the base of our pesto . If you can’t find toasted pine nuts in the grocery store, you can toast raw nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or just until fragrant.
  • Garlic adds a delicious flavor to the pesto. Don’t skip it!
  • Lemon adds bright freshness to the pesto. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is key– I don’t recommend using bottled juice here.
  • Basil is another base of our pesto– make sure it’s fresh, not wilted or brown.
  • Parmesan adds a salty nuttiness to the pesto.
  • Olive oil helps thin the pesto– I recommend a robust, good-quality olive oil that can stand up to the flavor of the basil and parmesan.


Calories: 183kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 135mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 491IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 1mg

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