Basil pesto is like gold, am I right? I mean it’s one of the best sauces or condiments for a number of things. Homemade pesto is super easy to make, the only problem I find is that basil can be kind of pricey, especially when you need 2 to 3 cups of it. Also those pine nuts that are traditionally in a basil pesto will empty your wallet. Don’t get me wrong, pesto made with basil is still THE BEST. But sometimes you want that pesto taste and feel for a recipe and you can’t get your hands on enough basil/you don’t want to use all of the basil you’ve worked hard to grow in your garden for one measly cup of homemade pesto. All we want that is herb-y, salty, nutty, saucy pesto goodness!
We don’t need you fancy-pants-break-the-bank-PINE-NUTS to make pesto! Cause we can use whatever kind of nuts/seeds we want!
Let’s do this!
8 simple ingredients for homemade pesto:
Pesto basically consists of a few cups of a leafy herbs, usually basil, but I am going to walk you through other ingredients you can use.
- Two cups fresh leafy herbs: basil, flat leaf parsley, mint, or cilantro. You can use one kind of herb or a combo of two. This time of year I usually throw mint in there because it’s out of control in our garden. Plus I love the freshness mint adds. Also I find this is a great way for me to use up flat leaf parsley that I often buy for a little garnish and then never finish because I don’t love the taste, but in pesto BAM it’s transformed into something amazing!
- One cup dark leafy greens: arugula, kale, spinach. This is not traditional to pesto but I find it to be a good way to add bulk, plus you get more greens in. Keep in mind that whichever dark leafy green you chose will affect the flavor of your pesto. Arugula will add a peppery taste that I love, kale will add a slight bitterness. Spinach, however can be pretty neutral in flavor, it’s a great one to use if you want the flavor of the herbs to shine through. Also adding the dark leafy green helps to make your pesto have deeper shade of beautiful green color.
- Nuts or seeds: pine nuts are traditional in a pesto, but they are crazy expensive. Instead you can use walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Toast them up before hand for extra flavor. Don’t skip the nuts and seeds, it’s what gives pesto that hearty texture.
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice: This adds brightness and tartness. If you were doing a cilantro pesto you could try using lime juice since cilantro and lime are made for each other, but I usually find lemon juice is best for pesto.
- Garlic: fresh garlic is key to giving pesto a lot of flavor. A little goes a long way
- Parmesan cheese: good quality Parmesan cheese adds a salty, nutty flavor. If you want to keep things dairy free/vegan nutritional yeast is a great option.
- Seasoning: pesto is nothing if it’s not salty. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper. If you want a little kick throw some red pepper flakes in there too.
- Extra virgin olive oil: A good fruity olive oil streamed in at the end makes pesto creamy, and saucy and delicious
The fun part about making homemade pesto is that you can play around with flavor combos and find your favorite recipe. The possibilities are endless. Also it’s super easy to make. All you do is pulse everything together in a food processor until a course texture forms and then stream in the olive oil to create that creamy texture we all know and love. You will have a delicious homemade pesto ready for you to go in 10 to 15 minutes! Can’t beat that! Also it can last in your fridge for up to 1 week!
I love to make pesto when I need to use up leafy herbs that are about to go bad in my fridge, I’m looking at you parsley! That way I don’y waste the herbs but instead use them in a new exciting way that is versatile.
You can use your pesto on almost anything. Spread it on crackers, add it to a crudite/veggie platter or cheese board. Dollop it on top of salads or on top of eggs. Spread it on sandwiches, spread it on any kind of meat or seafood/fish. Add it to soups or potatoes, or even serve it with pasta.
For more ideas how to make use of your homemade pesto check out my roasted cauliflower soup with arugula pesto, pesto hummus, pan seared cod with blistered tomatoes, and Italian turkey meatloaf muffins. Let me know in the comments below how you use your pesto.
- 1 cup dark leafy greens: spinach, kale, or arugula
- 2 cups fresh leafy herbs (use leaves only): basil, parsley, cilantro, or mint (can use a combo of any two)
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup nuts or seeds: pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds*
- Juice of ½ to 1 lemon
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or sub 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to keep DF/vegan)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup olive oil
- Pulse together greens + flavors: To the food processor add your greens, herbs, garlic, nuts or seeds, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese and pulse until a crumb texture forms. (see photo in blog post).
- Stream in oil: While the motor of the food processor is running slowly stream in the oil. Continue to blend until you reach your desired consistency. I prefer my pesto to have a little texture so I stop once the oil has streamed in. Pulse in the salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes if you desire. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Store/use Use immediately in sauces, dips, spread on toast or crackers, top salads or eggs. Possibilities are endless. Store in and air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
I didn’t include nutrition facts for this recipe because they can vary depending on what kind of nuts or seeds you use. Usually I would say a typical serving size is 1 to 2 tablespoons.