Part of Summer Central

How to Make Pesto

Whip up the sauce of summer, perfect for any of your favorite foods.

Making perfect pesto is a task that must be mastered by summer, especially if you have an herb garden and need to know what to do with all those pretty green basil leaves. While basil pesto is used in traditional pesto recipes, with this easy tutorial you can get creative with your nuts and greens to make variations like kale pesto or spinach pesto.
Pesto is a perfect addition to pasta, thick cuts of toasty bread, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, pizza, and fresh slices of tomato—name your dish and pesto can add a dash of fresh summer flavor to it!
You will need a food processor to make pesto at home unless you want major cramping in your knife hand.

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1 Choose Your Greens

You will need 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves. These will not be packed into the measuring cup like brown sugar. You just want to fill the cup and gently push them down a little. Dump the basil into the bowl of your food processor.


2 Add Nuts

Traditional pesto calls for 1/4 cup of pine nuts. Pine nuts can sometimes be found in the produce section of the grocery store, and they can be pricey. If you are playing around with a different variety of greens in your pesto, you can also try using walnuts (terrific with kale) or almonds (great with spinach).

If you are using a different variety of nuts, try to use nut pieces, since walnuts and almonds are larger than pine nuts in their whole form.

3 Add Cheese and Garlic

Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled. Grating your own Parmesan will offer both a sharper flavor and a little bit of a discount, since buying a block is generally cheaper than buying a tub of pre-grated cheese. We’re talking about real Parmesan cheese, not the kind in the shaker. You can use that variety if you have it on hand, but you really can’t beat the taste of freshly grated cheese!

4 Add Olive Oil

Start by adding 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) has a richer flavor than regular olive oil, and is perfect for salad dressings and raw sauces like pesto. Use your food processor to pulse the pesto, and gradually add more oil until the pesto reaches a smooth consistency.

Want more?
Learn how to make pesto sauce to pair with your favorite pasta
 • Make delicious pesto pasta with your homemade pesto

About Heather T.

Heather, who runs, has been making messes in the kitchen since she was a little kid when her mom handed her a cook book and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” Today she serves up fresh, healthy eats, easy weeknight meals and decadent sweet treats.