Classic Basil Pesto ~ A Garden Tradition

by | Oct 21, 2019

I love basil. I love growing it, I love eating it, and I love how it smells.

Homegrown basil pesto is culinary magic. On our trip to Italy last year, we spent some time learning basic Italian. It turns out that “pesto” comes from the italian word “pestare” which can mean to tread/trample/beat/crush…well, you get the idea. Traditionally, pesto was actually made by crushing basil in a mortar and pestle with all the other ingredients. It’s actually pretty fun if you have the time!

In my garden, I grow lots of basil. Not only is basil an amazing companion plant to tuck around your tomatoes but, recipes like basil pesto, use a lot of basil in the process. You can also freeze batches of homegrown basil pesto to enjoy for the future. Furthermore, I dehydrate whole basil leaves to save in my pantry. PS: if you haven’t dried your own basil, please try it!

Many gardeners and cooks have their own renditions of a classic basil pesto, and I almost feel like it’s a rite of passage to share mine with you. This recipe has been in my family recipe book for years, and it truly is my favorite recipe for homegrown basil pesto. Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients for homegrown basil pesto

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto 

2 cups fresh basil, packed into measuring cup (like in photo)

3 large cloves of garlic

1/8 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup + 1/8 cup olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup walnuts *or sunflower seeds, or nut of choice

1/2 tsp kosher salt *feel free to go slowly with the salt. On its own, pesto is salty (I like it that way) because it gets mixed with other things like pasta, bread, veggies, etc. You could start with 1/4 tsp and add more to taste if you’d like.

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

pyrex measuring cup with fresh basil and a whole head of homegrown softneck garlic

The ingredients for basil pesto are quite simple. I use a measuring cup to get an approximate amount of basil. Also, I enjoy using homegrown garlic in my pesto as well.

Let’s make pesto!

Pick your basil leaves off the stems, wash in a colander and let them dry slightly. My favorite salad spinner makes a quick job of this step.

Measure your basil by adding it to a measuring cup and gently compacting it. You should have 2 slightly compact cups! See photo.

Add your basil to a blender or food processor. Don’t blend yet!

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Blend/process until it has reached your desired consistency.


Freezing Homegrown Basil Pesto for Storage

If we have a lot of basil, I will often make multiple batches of pesto and freeze for later. There are different ways to freeze your homegrown basil pesto. You can transfer portions to freezer safe bags and press flat for freezing. There are also mason jars that are specifically safe for freezing when packed appropriately. When freezing in mason jars, I like to use pint jars and always fill to the “freeze here” line. I also cover freezing in mason jars in my Garden to Freezer Preserving video.

Lastly, you can freeze pesto in muffin tins (just until frozen) and then transferred to a large, freezer safe bag for future use. Sometimes it can be difficult to wrestle the pesto out of the muffin tins, but usually I let them sit a bit and then use a butter knife to coax them out or, better yet, use silicone muffin trays so you can easily pop out your homegrown basil pesto. PS: we call these pesto pucks! I find that one “pesto puck” can make a two-person serving of pasta. They defrost easily if left to thaw at room temperature just a short time before adding to pasta. If you are in a rush, the frozen pesto pucks will defrost in a microwave safe bowl when microwaved for about 30 seconds (depending on microwave).

basil pesto spooned into muffin tins for freezing alongside a plate of pesto pasta with roasted eggplant

While I prefer to preserve my pesto in freezer safe mason jars, freezing in muffin tins is also very useful for smaller portions (pictured here). Homegrown basil pesto is a powerhouse of flavor and makes dinner a breeze!

Other Ways to Enjoy Homegrown Basil Pesto

◊Stir it into warm pasta and enjoy! PS: make it even better by cooking Homemade Fresh Pasta

◊Spread a layer onto your bread for grilled cheese. Trust me, it is delicious!

◊Change up your pizza by using a thin layer of pesto instead of marinara.

◊Make italian layered sandwiches with basil pesto, salami, your favorite cured meats, and cheese!

◊Have you made zoodles? They also pair well with pesto!

Lastly, don’t forget to save any extra basil leaves for Winter by dehydrating them (instructions HERE).

If you found this blogpost helpful, share the recipe with a fellow garden friend who might also be loaded with tons of summer basil! Feel free to save or pin for later too!

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds