How To Make Perfect Pesto Every Time

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

It's always tempting to eat pesto by the spoonful. It's so very fresh and so very green. And those flavors of basil, pine nut, Parmesan, garlic, and olive oil just play so very nicely together. Spread it on sandwiches, toss it with pasta, or yes, treat yourself a single happy spoonful, but definitely absolutely positively make pesto any chance you get.

Besides how heavenly it tastes, the other thing I love about pesto is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Traditional Italian pesto is, of course, made strictly with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, and really good olive oil. It's a classic sauce, no contest.

But you can switch out the basil for another handy herb or leafy green, replace the (crazy expensive, if delicious) pine nuts with a different favorite nut, or swap the Parmesan for pecorino or asiago. Use more or less of anything to suit your tastes. Heck, you can even make a lower-fat pesto by replacing some of the olive oil with ricotta cheese!

Bottom line: green + nuts + cheese + olive oil = awesome sauce, literally. Whiz it up in a blender and you can't go wrong.

What's your favorite way to make pesto?

How to Make Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

What You Need


5 to 6 ounces (2 healthy bunches or about 6 cups gently packed) basil leaves, or any other green
1/2 cup pine nuts, or any other nut
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Blender or food processor


  1. Blend half the basil with the nuts, cheese, and garlic: Combine half of the basil with the nuts, cheese, cloves, and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend continuously until the ingredients are finely chopped.
  2. Blend in the rest of the basil: Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the rest of the basil. Blend until a uniform paste has formed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Stream in the olive oil: With the blender running, stream in the olive oil. Less olive oil will make a paste good for spreading on sandwiches and pizzas; more will make a sauce better for pastas and stirring into soup. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue blending as needed until the olive oil is emulsified into the basil and the pesto looks uniform.
  4. Taste and adjust: Taste the pesto and add more salt, garlic, nuts, or cheese as needed to taste.
  5. Store your pesto: Pesto will darken and brown very quickly, but will still be tasty and fresh for several days. For best appearance, use it right away. If storing, store it in the smallest container possible and thoroughly press the pesto to eliminate air pockets. Pour a little olive oil over the surface, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week. Pesto can also be frozen for several months.

(Image credits: Emma Christensen)

Per serving, based on 8 servings. (% daily value)
17 g (26.2%)
3.4 g (16.8%)
0.1 g
3 g (1%)
1.1 g (4.4%)
0.1 g
3.8 g (7.7%)
7.2 mg (2.4%)
120.3 mg (5%)