Fresh Basil Pesto with 5 Variations | Virtually Homemade: Fresh Basil Pesto with 5 Variations

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fresh Basil Pesto with 5 Variations

I can hear what your saying…Liz, I know how to make pesto – duh.  However, I just couldn’t help myself.  Even though it’s 80 degrees with raging Santa Ana winds today in San Diego (I know, I’m constantly talking about the weather here), the picture above is the last gasps of the most beautiful and productive basil plant I’ve ever had. My lovely daughter Eva gave it to me for Mother’s Day, so maybe it just felt that extra dose of love.

So what better way to use a massive amount of basil leaves?  Make pesto!  Plus it freezes, so you can enjoy a little taste of summer all year round (just leave out the cheese if you freeze).  The traditional combination of basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil is the classic way to prepare the sauce.  There are quite a few variations that are not only acceptable but also delicious.  For instance, pine nuts are often replaced by walnuts.

Here are 5 ways to mix up your pesto (no pun intended).  But don’t stop here.  Get creative and pop in whatever ingredient that tickles your fancy:

1.     Basil pesto with sunflower seeds
2.     Mint pesto with cashews
3.     Cilantro pesto with pumpkin seeds
4.     Spinach pesto with no nuts and Romano cheese
5.     Roasted red pepper pesto with with toasted almonds (similar to Romesco sauce)

Simple Basil Pesto (

Yield: 1 cup
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine the basil and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times. Add garlic and pulse a few more times
  2. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while blending. Stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste.


  1. Your photographs are beautiful. My mouth is watering. The bunnies ate all my basil -- I need to get to the market!

  2. Got this one! Thanks Joyce, I'm going to miss my basil plant this winter. At least of have some pesto tucked away :)


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