This classic basil pesto recipe creates a bright, herbaceous sauce that makes pretty much everything taste better. More than just a booster for pasta, homemade pesto is a truly versatile addition to any condiment arsenal, equally at home coating blistered green beans as it is swooshed under lamb meatballs, dolloped on top of scrambled eggs, or swirled into soup.
You will need a food processor—if you don’t have one, we highly recommend making this an excuse to get one; it’s a good investment you’ll use forever and ever and ever—and a handful of ingredients like fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. The key to great pesto sauce is adding the basil at the end instead of blending everything all at once so that the herb maintains its verdant color and fresh flavor. If you’d like a little heat, a dash of black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes would be a nice addition. Depending on how you want to use the pesto, you may also wish to thin it out with a bit of ice water or lemon juice.
If you’ve got a bushel of summer basil, feel free to scale up the recipe and then freeze the pesto in portions using an ice cube tray. Or, use this recipe as a blueprint to use up other ingredients like cilantro or arugula in place of the basil, cashews or pecans in place of the pine nuts, or Pecorino Romano or another hard Italian cheese in place of the parm.