An abundance of fresh basil leaves calls for classic—and versatile—Basil Pesto Spread! Serve it as an appetizer on toasted crostini or as the main meal tossed with angel hair pasta.
You’re probably getting tired of hearing me ramble on about our trip to Italy, but I just can’t get over all the amazing things we experienced and all the amazing food we tasted during our adventure! Please bear with me just a while longer as I reminisce and share more Italian-inspired recipes like this classic Basil Pesto Spread made with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil that I bought in Sicily—fantastico!
This delicious spread makes the perfect appetizer for summer dinner parties and comes together in literally five minutes! There are different methods for making pesto, hand chopping for pesto with more texture or pulsing in a food processor for a smoother spread.
I opt somewhere in between and use the pulse button on my food processor to get a texture that still has a few chunks, but is still very spreadable.
Start with fresh basil and remove the leaves from the stems. Every year I promise myself that I’m going to grow my own herbs so that I can step outside my kitchen door and enjoy the smells and tastes of fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary whenever I wish. Somehow, that hasn’t happened just yet, but I guess there’s always next year!
It’s not entirely necessary, but I tried the shock-method when I made this batch of pesto. Quickly rinsing the basil leaves in a bowl of ice water helps preserve their brilliant green color. After doing this you will want to remove the excess water by spinning the leaves in a salad spinner.
Putting the spread together is actually very simple. Start by chopping a couple of garlic cloves with two tablespoons of toasted pine nuts. I found that the most economical pine nuts come from Trader Joe (you can get them raw or already toasted, too).
Once the garlic and pine nuts are chopped, add the fresh basil leaves and salt. Pulse a few times and scrape the leaves to the bottom of the processor bowl until they are all chopped to the desired consistency.
To this mixture, slowly pour in the olive oil while the processor is on low to incorporate. At this point, remove to a small bowl and add freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir. That’s it—presto pesto!
To store the pesto for later use, cover with a layer of olive oil and refrigerate. Pesto is best used within a day or so for the best flavor. You can also freeze pesto, but don’t add cheese. Just place in small zip lock bags and squeeze out all the air.
Basil Pesto Spread
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, removed from stems
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for storing)
- 2 - 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Remove basil leaves from the stems. Shock the leaves in a bowl of ice water and remove immediately to paper towels to dry. (May also use a salad spinner to remove water.)
- Place pine nuts and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add basil leaves and pulse until chopped to desired consistency.
- Pour olive oil into the food processor chute while on low to combine with the basil mixture. Add more olive oil if you desire.
- Remove to a bowl and add salt, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese. Stir until combined.
- Serve immediately on toasted baguette. May store pesto in refrigerator for 2-3 days in a sealed jar. To save for later, cover pesto with a layer of olive oil and refrigerate.