This Easy Homemade Southern Basil Pesto recipe takes the traditional basil pesto recipe, which originated in the 16th century in Genoa, Italy, and updates it with a Southern twist.
What is pesto sauce made of?
Traditional basil pesto sauce is made with garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with parmesan cheese and olive oil.
My Southern twist on this decidedly Italian condiment is the substitution of pecans, the South’s favorite nut, for pine nuts. Now don’t get me wrong, traditional basil pesto with pine nuts is delicious and it’s probably my favorite condiment or sauce. But since I have a freezer full of pecans I couldn’t resist using them in one of my pesto batches instead of the traditional pine nuts, and the pesto was equally delicious.
I’m embarrassed to admit that even though they are called pine nuts, I didn’t realize that these sweet little nuts are really edible seeds of pine trees. Because they cost a small fortune, I figured these flavorful nuts must be from some rare tree species. I don’t know why they are so expensive, because pine trees are everywhere!
This whole basil pesto post and recipe came about because a good friend, Mary Carroll, brought me a large bag of fresh sweet basil from their farm. Heady with the strong aroma of basil, all I could think of was making pesto. If you have never made it, you won’t believe how easy it is!
Can you freeze pesto?
The good news about making basil pesto is that it freezes well. Mary brought me so much basil that I was able to make several batches. Although it is delicious on so many things, I knew we would never be able to use all of it before it spoiled.
In the past, I have frozen my extra basil pesto in ice cube trays and then, once it was frozen, simply put the pesto cubes in a plastic bag and stored them in the freezer until I was ready to use them.
However, we have just finished a kitchen remodel and I couldn’t find my ice cube trays anywhere. So I used small plastic snack bags to freeze the basil pesto and they worked perfectly. I was careful to squeeze out all of the air before sealing and they are actually much easier to store in the freezer.
If you like basil pesto like we do, you might be interested in one or more of these popular recipes on my blog that include basil pesto as an ingredient:
- Quick and Easy Basil Pesto Chicken
- Tomato and Artichoke Pizza
- Shrimp Burgers with Basil Pesto Aioli
- Pesto Pasta Shrimp and Tomatoes, and
- Roasted Tomato Quiche with Goat Cheese
How to make easy Homemade Southern Basil Pesto
Rinse and drain the basil leaves. (I use my salad spinner) Discard any woody stems.
Add the basil leaves, salt, lemon juice, pecans or pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese to a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Pulse until everything is finely chopped up.
With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture makes a loose paste.
Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three days, or store in the freezer for 2-3 months.
The biggest enemy of bright green fresh basil pesto is air. Be sure to store it in an air-tight container to keep air from browning the basil. Also, I usually add just a touch of olive oil to the top of the pesto to keep the air from getting to the basil mixture.
To toast pecans, spread them evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes in a 350 degrees oven. To toast pine nuts, place them in a small skillet and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for about 2-4 minutes.
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Easy Homemade Southern Basil Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups packed basil leaves
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup toasted pecans or toasted pine nuts
- 2 large garlic cloves chopped
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Rinse and drain the basil leaves. Discard any woody stems.
- Add the basil leaves, salt, lemon juice, toasted pecans or pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until everything is finely chopped up.
- With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture makes a loose paste.
- Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three days, or store in the freezer for 2-3 months.