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Fresh, nutritious ingredients come together so fast for the best recipe for pesto with basil! Let’s chat about how to make pesto with basil, how to freeze pesto, why fresh basil is best, how to use basil pesto and the amazing health benefits of basil.
When the peak of harvest time comes and you are swimming in basil, you figure out every delightful way to use it up! That is my current mission in life, and I can’t wait to show you what I come up with.
First up, we have been making and eating up a TON of pesto made with basil, fresh from the garden. Basil pesto is simply delightful, and every single one of my kids will down this “green stuff” without question.
For each batch I make up, I have varied the ingredients and have landed on our favorite combo, with a surprise ingredient not often found in most basil recipes. But it adds the yummiest surprise flavor!
I’m excited to share this basil pesto recipe with you! I think it is the absolute best!
You can print the recipe below, but first let me answer a few questions you might have.
WHAT IS PESTO?
Pesto is a flavor bomb of herbs and a fantastic way to use up and consume healthy basil. It is used primarily in sauces to flavor and add some healthy fat. It is also fantastic as an herb spread for just about anything and everything where you wish to add herbal flavor. Basil also has medicinal properties for health and healing – so you may want to eat it by the spoonfuls! No need to add the spoonful of sugar to make this go down! Yum!
CAN YOU USE DRIED BASIL FOR PESTO?
Let’s talk about why fresh basil is best. If you’ve ever stopped to notice the smell and taste of dried basil, you can tell right away that the flavor notes are different than in fresh basil. I love to throw dried basil in sauces to my hearts content, but I have to say it – 2 cups of dried basil in a pesto recipe would leave you with something that tastes more like animal feed than the fresh basil pesto we all love.
Also, the oils and moisture from the fresh basil are dried up and you won’t end up with the same texture should you try to use dried basil.
Trust me on this one . . . fresh is best! It’s like summer in every bite!
HOW TO USE BASIL PESTO?
The ways are endless if you are a creative cook, but here are some ideas to get you using every bit of that yummy fresh basil:
- Layer crackers with cream cheese and a dollop of pesto (kids love this!)
- Toast with cream cheese and basil pesto
- Broiled bread with a spread of pesto, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese and drizzled with balsamic glaze (my mouth is watering!)
- On top of grilled chicken or as a marinate for any meat
- Sauté with veggies
- Add extra oil and use as a salad dressing
- As a sauce for pasta or added to a marinara sauce for major flavor!
- Spread on burgers and any sandwich (mayo who?)
- Pizza sauce!! Yum!
- A fresh dip added to any charcuterie board
HOW DO YOU STORE FRESH BASIL PESTO
Fresh basil pesto can last in the fridge for several weeks – but here is the key. It needs to stay covered with olive oil. So if you don’t plan to use it all in a couple days, be sure to keep it in the fridge in a sealed jar and top it off with a drizzle of olive oil every few days.
HOW TO FREEZE FRESH BASIL PESTO
Pesto can be frozen and kept for several months in the freezer. Just use an ice cube tray or silicone tray, and fill each section with your pesto. Once frozen, pop the dollops of pesto into bags, label and store in freezer.
Some say to leave out the cheese if you are going to freeze your pesto, and add it later. I have found when I mix in the cheese and freeze my leftovers, it turns out just fine.
PESTO VARIATIONS: DO I HAVE TO USE BASIL FOR PESTO?
Basil is by far the shining ingredient in a typical pesto, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play around with other greens! You can mix in or substitute completely any of these herbs and greens for extra flavor and/or medicinal benefits:
- Dandelion leaves (super healthy and medicinal!)
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF BASIL?
Basil benefits primarily the digestive and nervous systems. It may help with symptoms like:
- gas and stomach cramps
- preventing and relieving nausea
- as a mild sedative it can help with anxiety, insomnia, irritability
- as a poultice, it can help relieve the itch and pain of insect bites and stings
Do I have you convinced to add more pesto with basil to your life?
If so, let’s get cooking!
INGREDIENTS IN PESTO
- Fresh Basil Leaves (organic or fresh from the plant is best and so yummy)
- Nuts (pine nuts are most common, but you can get away with walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.)
- Cheese (parmesan or romano are best)
- Olive oil (sometimes extra virgin will compete with the flavors, but I use it if that is all I have)
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice (My secret ingredient! I love the tangy note this adds, but you can omit if desired)
- Salt and Pepper
You’ll need a food processor or blender for this recipe.
PRINTABLE RECIPE FOR PESTO WITH BASIL
The Best Recipe for Pesto with Basil
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan or Romano cheese
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeeze lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Add the basil and nuts to a food processor and pulse several times.
- Add garlic and cheese and pulse a couple more times.
- Scrape down the sides of the processor.
- While the food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. You may need to pause to scrape down the sides again.
- Continue to process until you reach the desired consistency.
- Add salt and pepper, or more to taste.
- Serve in a beautiful bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of cheese.