How To Make Pesto Sauce

Learn how to make pesto for use as a sauce or dip. This Italian condiment adds a burst of fresh flavor to any dish!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time22 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 140kcal
Author: Jessica Gavin


  • 2 cups basil leaves (60g, 2 ounces) packed
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley leaves (1g)
  • 3 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (30g, 1 ounce) raw
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (120ml)
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (8g, 1/4 ounce)
  • black pepper as needed for seasoning


  • Place the basil and parsley in a resealable plastic bag. Use a rolling pin or meat cleaver to lightly bruise the herbs and greens. Transfer to a food processor or blender.
  • Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Toast garlic until the outsides are lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally, about 8 minutes. Peel garlic and add to food processor.
  • Place pine nuts in the same pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to food processor.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the food processor.
  • Process pesto by pulsing five times to help break down the basil and garlic.
  • Turn food processor on low speed, as its running slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil until a smooth pesto with some smaller pieces is formed, about 10 seconds from start to finish.
  • Add the Pecorino Romano cheese to the pesto and process on low speed for 5 seconds.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Transfer pesto to a small bowl.
  • Pesto can be stored in an airtight container, using plastic wrap to cover the surface with no air space and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  • Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated, The Science of Good Cooking.
  • Recipe Makes: 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1 Serving: 1 tablespoon
  • Parmesan cheese can be substituted for Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • If using basil pesto recipe for pasta, mix in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the hot pasta water to thin out the sauce.
MAKE IT VEGAN OR DAIRY-FREE: Remove the cheese or use vegan cheese.
MAKE IT WHOLE30 OR PALEO: Remove the cheese and use sea salt.


Calories: 140kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 86mg | Potassium: 6mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin C: 0.8mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @jessica_gavin or tag #jessicagavin!