Got Basil? Try This Easy Pesto Recipe

Fresh basil

Are you enjoying the harvest from your garden? We made a batch of pesto from a bunch of fresh basil recently, and I thought you might like the recipe. Instead of the traditional pine nuts, I use almonds in our pesto (more about this later) and I like to toast them in the oven to bring out their flavor. Here’s the easy recipe:

Basil Pesto Recipe

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the almonds for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.


toasted almonds

Artsy shot of toasted almonds


Cool to room temperature. Combine the almonds, basil leaves and garlic in a food processor.


pesto recipe


Process until the basil is finely chopped. Measure out the olive oil in a spouted measuring cup.


Measure out olive oil


Drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor running, until it is fully incorporated and the pesto is creamy. Add the Parmesan cheese and process briefly, just until combined. Scrape down the sides and process for a few seconds longer.


Easy homemade pesto recipe


Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

We freeze the pesto in smaller portions so it’s easy to add to creamy sauces, chicken and pasta. I prefer to freeze foods in parchment paper so they don’t absorb any chemicals from plastic. To freeze pesto, I fold a piece of parchment paper in half, and then fold in the sides to make a pocket:


Parchment to freeze food


Add the pesto sauce, flatten it out a bit for quicker thawing and tuck the packet in a freezer bag. (I reuse our freezer bags endlessly, for storage purposes only.) At this point, your pesto will look remarkably like a baggie of pot. Or am I just seeing it that way because I live in Colorado, land of soon-to-be-legal marijuana?


Freeze pesto in parchment


You can freeze the pesto for up to 6 months. To thaw it, just let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so while you’re preparing dinner. By freezing it in a thin, flat piece you can easily break off a chunk if you want to add a little bit to a soup or pasta sauce. You can also use pesto on pizza, grilled foods, stirred in mashed potatoes, in dips, over a steak,  spread on garlic bread, with scrambled eggs, and in dozens of other recipes. In the middle of winter, you’ll be so glad you preserved the summertime flavor of fresh basil.

By the way, if you have an abundance of mint in your garden you might enjoy this Mint Pesto recipe. On a different but related note, perhaps you’d like to read my wicked bad tale about the time I came down with a condition called Pine Mouth.



Pine Mouth is no fun!


It explains one more reason why I prefer almonds over pine nuts in my pesto. (The short version of my painful lesson learned:  always buy locally-grown pine nuts, never cheap imports.)

Have you been enjoying foods from your garden this month? I’d love to hear what you’re harvesting, cooking and preserving.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

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