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Photo by Joseph De Leo

Everyone should have a great basil pesto recipe on hand for the season when fresh basil overtakes the garden and runs wild at the farmers market. Pesto is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle—its name is derived from the Italian verb pesta, meaning “to pound.” Here, a food processor is your friend and makes for quicker work. This easy recipe is classic in terms of ingredients: pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic. If you’re willing to go a little off course, you could sub in another green leafy thing (like arugula or cilantro) for the fresh basil leaves; cashews, pistachios, or pecans for the pine nuts; or a different hard cheese, such as Pecorino, for the parm.

We love to use pesto as a condiment to top soup and pizza. A batch does two times the work in this recipe for pan-fried chicken thighs as a dual marinade and dipping sauce. Pair it with whatever noodles you have on hand for unbeatable pesto pasta. Or use it as a verdant addition to so many other dinner recipes

Store pesto sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze pesto, portioned into ice cube trays, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to six months.

Editor’s note: This recipe has been updated to reflect that kosher salt should be used. If using table salt, use half the amount specified.


Makes about 1⅓ cups

3 large garlic cloves
½ cup pine nuts
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated (⅔ cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil

With food processor running, drop in garlic and finely chop. Stop motor and add nuts, cheese, salt, pepper, and basil, then process until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil, blending until incorporated. 

Editor’s note:This recipe was originally published in the September 2002 issue of ‘Gourmet’ and first appeared on Epicurious in August 2004.

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  • One of the most powerful recipes on the Internet.

    • oxycorgi

    • New York, NY

    • 6/14/2022

  • Kosher salt works best in this recipe, and if you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, a teaspoon is perfect. If using Morton brand, use a bit more than half of a teaspoon.

    • Anonymous

    • Los Angeles

    • 6/9/2022

  • Hello? What kind of salt are you all using? Table salt would not be appropriate--it's best saved for salting pasta water or baking. Fine sea salt or kosher salt works best. If this recipe is made with quality ingredients and the proper salt (sea or kosher) it is not too salty. Make sure the basil is packed--that greatly affects the amount used. Also, don't forget, pesto is not meant to be eaten straight. It is a sauce for pasta! Please bear that in mind before going on the" too much salt" bandwagon.

    • acmm

    • NJ

    • 2/21/2015

  • Way, way, way too salty. Inedible. Wasted a lot of expensive ingredients on this one -- pine nuts, basil. They should take this one down. Plenty of better pesto recipies on this site. Threw it out. Maybe the recipe author didn't realize that parmesean cheese has lots of salt in it. Also too much pepper. Blech

    • SanFranFreddie

    • San Francisco, CA

    • 10/15/2014

  • What about freezing this pesto?

    • MaryVA

    • Arlington, VA

    • 7/28/2014

  • 3 small changes transform this into a superior pesto recipe. 1: Use half the salt 2: Add 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste. It brightens the entire concoction. 3: Toast your pine nuts.

    • EmJayTee

    • Portland, OR

    • 4/22/2014

  • Very good base recipe but i made a few modifications to suit my preferences and next time I would use less garlic. My modifications: I used less salt and used sea salt and only used half of the olive oil called for. I would have loved it if the garlic hadn't been so strong. I think two large or three small cloves might be a better ratio.

    • Christina_mart

    • Boston, MA

    • 1/23/2014

  • Unfortunately I made this on the fly without having time to read the reviews which mostly advise 1/2 the salt, and to use coarse, not table grain salt. I made it exactly as listed and it's utterly inedible because it's so salty. I can't serve this to anyone else, and it's too salty to even eat because I feel guilty for having wasted money on fresh basil and pine nuts.

    • blainepate1

    • Venice, CA

    • 6/14/2013

  • I made this recipe with the following modifications: 2 cloves garlic/dropped in boiling water for 1 minute, 1/2 the recommended salt - used Kosher salt, pine nuts/toasted, about 1/2 or a bit more oil, juice of 1/2 lemon. Definitely would make again

    • pattyposy

    • Williamsburg, VA

    • 9/5/2012

  • Totally yummy. I used toasted walnuts to sub for the pine nuts, and mixed the pesto w/pasta with sauteed zucchini, fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes.

    • mcthom

    • Pleasanton, CA

    • 9/23/2010

  • Delicious. I thought it came out a quite salty though, so I'd cut the salt by half and gradually add more if needed. I also added a few squeezes of lime juice (I didn't have lemon) and I felt that balanced out the oil and added a little brightness to the pesto.

    • kbexfield

    • 8/19/2010

  • Easy and delicious. I love garlic but this was a little too strong for me. "3 large garlic cloves" is subjective and depends on the garlic (I used farmer's market). Next time will try just 2 cloves.

    • Anonymous

    • San Francisco

    • 5/22/2010

  • This is my go to pesto recipe. Good with pine nuts or walnuts, though I find the pine nut version to be richer and creamier. Sometimes I spike mine with a little crushed red pepper flakes to spice it up. As others have suggested I added a bit of lemon juice, and cut back slightly on the salt and oil.

    • jenncc

    • L.A.

    • 4/6/2010

  • Easy Pesto recipe. I made it exactly as written and it won over my finicky 13 year daughter. She now asks for it once a week with Tortellini

    • Anonymous

    • Warren, NJ

    • 2/7/2010

  • Very nice, simple pesto recipe. I sometimes sub walnuts b/c pine nuts can be pricey - still great. Mix it up, toss with pasta & be delighted.

    • AustinPureAndSimple

    • 1/16/2010

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