Go Back
+ servings
Pesto Recipe
5 from 2 votes

The Best Classic Pesto

Pesto may be my favorite food. That’s right, my favorite food, not just sauce! I probably enjoy it at least once a week. Here is my very favorite, classic Italian pesto recipe. I’ve made this showstopping pesto for years, and it’s truly perfect for any occasion!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Servings: 6
Print Recipe

Ingredients

The base:

  • ¾ cup pine nuts
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 cups basil, rinsed

The cheese (omit to keep this pesto vegan):

  • 1/3 cup Pecorino, freshly grated or ground
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan, freshly grated or ground
  • (Omit the cheese to keep this pesto vegan, and add 2 Tbsps nutritional yeast, if desired)

The olive oil:

  • ¾ cup olive oil

Instructions

Process the pine nuts and garlic

  • In the bowl of your food processor (or preferred blending/processing device), add the pine nuts and garlic cloves.
  • Pulse a few times, then process until the pine nuts and garlic are smooth and combined.

Add the basil and sea salt

  • Now add the basil and sea salt to the pine nut/garlic mixture.  Process again until a mostly smooth, green paste forms.  (See picture above for consistency.)

Add the cheese (if using)

  • Now add the Pecorino and Parmesan.
  • Process again until the cheese has completely incorporated
  • (You can omit the cheese to keep this pesto vegan, and it is still absolutely delicious! Try adding a total of 2 Tbsps nutritional yeast to your vegan pesto for a cheesey flavor!)

Add the olive oil

  • Lastly, add the olive oil to the food processor. Process until the olive oil incorporates completely into the rest of the ingredients.
  • The pesto is done! Enjoy as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, dipping sauce, etc. I think the options for pesto are almost limitless!
  • This recipe makes about 1 ½ cups pesto. I use it to make pesto pasta, then I use the leftover pesto to make my favorite flatbread pizzas!

To Make Pesto Pasta

  • Bring 12-14 cups of salted water (I use scant 1Tbsp sea salt) to a boil.
  • Cook 1 pound of pasta according to package instructions, drain it, and put the pasta back in the pot.
  • Now add a few Tbsps of pesto to the pasta. With tongs or a spoon and fork, toss the pesto into the pasta.
  • Continue adding more pesto to the pasta and tossing until you have coated the pasta with your desired amount of pesto.
  • Add more pesto to each individual serving of pesto pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan if desired, and serve!

Notes

This pesto is gluten free!
This pesto can be made vegan by omitting the cheese.
If your grocery budget is tight this week and you simply must have pesto (I speak from experience!), I recommend subbing the pine nuts in this recipe with cashew pieces.
Cashew pieces are just about the cheapest nut out there. (Cashew pieces are cheaper than whole cashews. And since we’re processing them anyway, you don’t need the cashews to be whole!)
With their mild flavor and creamy texture, cashews are a good substitute for pine nuts in pesto.  You’ll still get a to-die-for pesto with cashew pieces!