This extremely useful basil pesto sauce can get you out of almost any dinnertime conundrum. With a packet of pasta and a jar of homemade pesto, a quick dinner is never far away. And when basil is in season, freeze your extra basil pesto for the winter months.
Total Time Investment: 10 Minutes
Everybody should have a good recipe for homemade basil pesto sauce up their sleeve. Pesto is infinitely useful in the kitchen, and is a handy shortcut for quick meals. I like to stock up the freezer with pesto when basil is in season, and use it throughout the year in speedy dinners, such as my chicken pesto pasta.
I am not re-inventing the wheel here; there are as many different recipes for pesto as there are people that make it. And whilst I have a great spicy kale pesto recipe on my site, I don’t have one for a good, simple basil pesto sauce. So here it is.#Basil #pesto is indispensable in the kitchen. Stir through #pasta, spread over #pizza or drop into #soup for a super quick #dinner. And don't forget to stock the #freezer with excess pesto for #quick meals at any time. Click To Tweet
This particular recipe was given to me by Janice (she of the meatball fame), and it was passed to her by her Italian mother-in-law. So I consider this recipe the real deal. It is simple to make, delicious to eat, and freezes brilliantly so you can always have some on hand for a simple meal. What’s not to love?
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Ingredient Substitutions for Basil Pesto Sauce
Basil pesto is traditionally considered to be a mix of basil leaves, pine nuts, Pecorino cheese, garlic and olive oil. And whilst I typically stick quite firmly to the recipe below, feel free to change up things up to make it your own. You could consider the following substitutions:
- Replace the pine nuts with any other nut. Walnuts, cashews or almonds all make great pesto.
- Whilst Pecorino is the traditional hard cheese used in basil pesto sauce, any hard cheese will work in it’s place. I routinely use Parmesan cheese in place of the Pecorino.
- Ring the changes by substituting some of the basil leaves for spinach or rocket (arugula).
How To Freeze Basil Pesto Sauce
Pesto freezes brilliantly, so make a huge batch when basil is in season and enjoy it throughout the year. I often double or triple the recipe below, and freeze the pesto in:
- Freezer safe containers: Divide the pesto into 1 cup portions and spoon into freezer safe containers. I find that 1 cup is generally the right amount for a dinner recipe. Label and date the containers, and store in the freezer for up to one year.
- Ice cube containers: Spoon 1 Tablespoon measures into the cavities of an ice cube tray and freeze until firm. Pop the cubes out of the tray and store in a zip lock bag. Cubes of pesto will last in the freezer for three to four months, or longer if vacuum sealed.
Defrost containers of pesto overnight in the fridge. I have also had great success defrosting the containers quickly by placing them in a sink of warm water. Cubes of pesto can be dropped directly into your recipe, as they will defrost as the food cooks.
How To Use Basil Pesto Sauce
There are an infinite number of uses for basil pesto sauce, and you are really only limited by your imagination. To get you started though, why not:
- Use pesto as a simple sauce for a bowl of pasta. Stir pesto through plain spaghetti, or amp it up a notch and make my chicken pesto pasta.
- Drop cubes of pesto into minestrone soup or other vegetable soup.
- Spread pesto over puff pastry to add flavour to a simple tomato tart.
- Mix pesto into the filling of mini quiches for a simple vegetarian appetiser.
- Add a burst of flavour to a simple sandwich.
- Turn pesto into a dipping sauce for sweet potato wedges.
- Replace the traditional tomato sauce with pesto for a delicious family pizza.
- Drizzle pesto over salmon for an elegant yet speedy main meal.
Basil Pesto Sauce – Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make a basil pesto recipe without pine nuts? Absolutely. Pine nuts add a creaminess to pesto, but other nuts, such as walnuts, almonds or cashews, all make a great substitute for pine nuts in pesto sauce.
Is basil pesto gluten free? Yes. Pesto made according to any traditional recipe will be gluten free.
Is pesto dairy free? Pesto contains cheese, and as such cannot be considered dairy free. To make basil pesto dairy free, you would need to either omit the cheese, or use a hard vegan cheese.
How do you store homemade pesto sauce? Store homemade pesto in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. Or freeze it using the instructions set out above. If storing pesto in the fridge, smooth the top of the pesto with the back of a spoon, and drizzle a layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto to seal it. Without the layer of olive oil, the top of the pesto will dry out and turn an unappetising brown colour. The olive oil will harden in the fridge, and can just be scooped off the top of the pesto prior to use.
How long can you keep homemade pesto? Freshly made homemade pesto can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. It can also be frozen for at least three to four months.
Is basil pesto healthy? Yes, basil pesto is healthy. Packed full of unprocessed ingredients, it is a great healthy way to add amazing flavour to your meals.
Made this recipe? Tell me how it went in the comments below.
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A Handy Basil Pesto Sauce
- 3 cloves garlic
- 50 g (1 generous cup) basil leaves firmly packed
- 20 g (2 Tablespoons) pine nuts roasted
- 30 g (6 Tablespoons) grated Pecorino cheese
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
- Place the garlic in a food processor or blender, and pulse briefly to roughly chop the garlic.
- Add the basil leaves, pine nuts, Pecorino, sea salt, and half of the olive oil to the food processor.
- Blitz the mixture for 30 seconds, or until finely chopped.
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor.
- Add the remainder of the olive oil, and pulse until the oil is incorporated.
- Can be used immediately. Or spoon the pesto into a glass jar, smooth the surface, cover with olive oil and store in the fridge for up to one week.