Recipe: The Best Real Pesto Sauce

We love pesto. And with summer gardens, farmers markets, and grocery stores filled with fresh basil, there’s no better time to make some up than now.

A delicious, real pesto sauce that's quick and easy to make with options to make it more affordable by substituting other greens.

But why should you go to the trouble? While there are some high quality pesto sauces available, some store-bought pesto sauces don’t look very real at all.

Store-bought pesto can be filled with some questionable and highly processed ingredients.What’s in your store-bought pesto sauce?

The Knorr dry pesto sauce mix is particularly disturbing with salt and sugar as the first two ingredients and basil falling pretty deep into the list. But in general, with ingredients like MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, cheese from cows potentially treated with growth hormones, and a whole host of other additives, I prefer to make my own. And while it does take a little bit of time, it probably doesn’t take as much time as you think.

And if you’re looking for some ways to reduce the cost of homemade pesto sauce, check out my recipe. I’ve got some great ideas for substituting other greens that can bring just as much flavor to your table at a more affordable price!

Recipe: The Best Real Pesto Sauce
Recipe type: Dressings & Condiments
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves*
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Toast garlic in small pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown spots start to appear on skin. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Toast nuts in small pan over medium heat stirring frequently to avoid burning. When fragrant and slightly browned remove from heat and cool.
  3. In a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.
We recommend organic ingredients if possible.

*Pesto can get expensive especially if you're using 100% fresh basil. So I often do a 50/50 mix with another leafy green. I think a great substitute is arugula because it has a delicious, peppery flavor. If you're not wild about arugula, substitute some spinach or kale instead.

Pesto keeps in an airtight container in your fridge for about 1-2 weeks. I like to make big batches of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays or canning jars. Simply top off the pesto off with a little splash of olive oil to help keep it fresh while it's frozen. I find the frozen cubes of pesto are good for about 5-6 months while the jars taste great for about 10 months.

Probably our favorite way to use this recipe is with our homemade Pesto Cavatappi, but there are tons of possibilities. Here are some of our favorites:

Our Top 8 Ways to Use Pesto Sauce:

  1. Mix in with pasta
  2. As a spread on a sandwich or bread
  3. Use as a condiment or dipping sauce for meat
  4. Season or dress veggies
  5. As a replacement for traditional pizza sauce
  6. At breakfast as a topping or mix-in for eggs
  7. Create fun, delicious dips by mixing it into hummus, guacamole, sour cream, or greek yogurt
  8. As a topping on cream cheese for a delicious appetizer with crackers or pita wedges.

Do you enjoy pesto sauce? Share your favorite way to use it below!

Kitchen Tips and Resources:

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2 thoughts on “Recipe: The Best Real Pesto Sauce

    • Hi Frankie!

      If I make more pesto than I can use in a couple of weeks, I will freeze the extra … usually in ice cube trays or in canning jars. The pesto cubes taste great for about 5-6 months while the frozen jarred pesto tastes great for about 10 months or so.

      If you have any other questions, just let me know!