Classic Basil Pesto ~ A Garden Tradition


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!

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

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


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 some mason jars that are safe for freezing when packed appropriately, but I have not done that before. My favorite way to freeze my pesto is 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).

Here are some ways to enjoy your homegrown basil pesto!

◊Stir it into warm pasta and enjoy! PS: make it even better by doing 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.

◊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).

PS: Have you tried this recipe? Use my hashtag #FreckledCA on Instagram so I can see your results!

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