Homemade Pesto

Homemade Pesto

Every September, I make pesto for our family to enjoy all year long.  Once September rolls around and the kids are back in school, I can find a good chunk of time to spend in the kitchen.  I used to do this project alone and it took all day long.  Now, with two friends to share in the work and fun, it takes much less time.  Fresh basil, garlic, easy dinners in the freezer, and girlfriends in the kitchen?  Sign me up!

Homemade PestoChanging up the recipe.
In years past, I’ve always made our pesto with pine nuts but the cost has just gotten to be too much.  This year, I decided to try walnuts instead.  After a blind taste test on my family, it was determined that there is no difference in taste.  I did not toast the walnuts first.  It was also determined that I really like blind-folding my family!  My husband also convinced me that the pine nuts make pesto seem too rich for him.  Walnuts are a healthier choice.  As usual, he’s right.

How pesto became a family favorite.
Pesto became a staple for our family on our first home-exchange trip to France.  Standing in the condiment aisle at the village market, my kids discovered that pesto was sold in jars, and instead of mayonnaise, they could use it on their sandwiches.  Everyday we packed lunches to eat while sight seeing and we came to love the baguette with pesto, salami, boiled egg, and thinly sliced onion sandwich.  (Just thinking about that sandwich just made my mouth water!  Did yours?)

Look at those young, world travelers who were so much shorter than me way back then!

Homemade Pesto

You can enjoy pesto all year long, too.  Pesto can be frozen and is a quick meal served with whole wheat pasta, on pizza, or added to a grilled cheese sandwich.  It freezes well and I don’t do anything special to the batches that I’m placing in the freezer.  Do make sure you leave head-space at the top of any food container you’re freezing.  I like to use glass jars but plastic containers are fine also.

Make cooking fun.
I love getting friends together and preparing food for future use.  Preparing food for our families is something that takes time.  Why not make it a party and have fun?  Our three-some started at 9am this year and coffee was the only drink served.  In years past, we’ve enjoyed other beverages while “working” on our pesto project!

Homemade Pesto

By September the basil is starting to get a little woody and thick stemmed.  Plan to break off the leaves and use the more tender stalks.  Soft stems are fine but the hard ones won’t get processed and they could end up your pesto.  When using frozen pesto, the consistency is thicker after thawing.  Adding a few tablespoons of broth or water will help.  If serving over pasta, simply reserve some of your pasta water to mix in with your pesto and pasta.  Enjoy!

Homemade Pesto
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2 cups
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
There's nothing like pesto made from fresh basil. Basil is easy to grow and can be harvested several times during a summer - and it will grow back.
  • 8 cups loosely packed basil (2 bunches or about 1 pound)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoon walnuts, pine nuts or other nut
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Scrap sides once and process again.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Refrigerate and store in airtight containers. Can be frozen.
Pesto is like a condiment and adds so much flavor to soups, sandwiches or dressings. It's a good base but also tastes delicious over a pile of pasta!


Sources for this recipe:  All items for this recipe came from Cash & Carry.  The basil was locally grown.  For the salt, I like to use coarse kosher salt.  If making a small amount of pesto, fresh lemon is best but for large quantities, purchasing lemon juice is best.

What do you like to cook with friends? Any foods you fell in love with while traveling?

Go Gingham related links:

Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
Fruit flies be gone – with lids from glass jars
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
Just say no to baby carrots!
Go Gingham food philosophy – yes, there is one


Sara, creator of Go Gingham, is passionate about cooking and feeding her family healthy, real food. She's a green enthusiast, too, who loves to grow food organically. Sara loves to travel - especially by trading houses. An avid runner, she can also be found chasing after her chickens in the backyard.


  1. Now I’m eying the overgrown garden plot and plotting next year’s herb garden with this in mind. I was already excited about having an actual garden next year now that I have my own small home with my own little yard.

    1. In my experience (as the sort of gardener that tends to kill most plants almost instantly – it’s almost eerie!), lavender, chives, and mint are all extremely tough and hard to kill (they survived our crazy-cold winter last year). Thyme is also pretty easy. Parsley is REALLY easy, and great in green smoothies. My sage and rosemary are doing well this year, but it remains to be seen if they come back next spring.

      Basil, unfortunately, is a bit of a prima-donna – requires more care than I’m apt to give it. Unless you can get a clipping from a sturdy plant from a friend (which I did last summer) – if it takes root, then it’ll have a good shot at staying alive.

      If anyone else wants to give herb recommendations – I’d love to hear them!

      1. Hi Siobhan! I agree about your basil assessment! It really needs hot, dry weather. Mint needs to stay in a pot otherwise it will take over. I also really like arugula, which I don’t use an a herb really but in salads and pasta. It’s super easy and you can save the seeds, dry them, and plant them again. It will give you great confidence in the gardening department!
        My top favorites are: arugula, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme. I also tried lemongrass this year as well but it only likes hot weather. I love the flavor of it.
        Thanks for leaving a comment.

    2. Indigo, that is so exciting! You can start some cold weather crops right now, depending on where you are. Spinach, chards, and kale are good choices. Good luck! I can’t wait to hear about your garden. I tried corn this year and grew 3 ears, which will be in our salad tonight!

  2. I’m pretty sure pesto can be shipped to Alaska… 🙂
    Thanks for the recipe.

    1. You are welcome, sister! I’ve heard that pesto can be shipped…although, it’s easier to send cashmere scarves to me!

  3. I’ve never had pesto before and am very intrigued at trying it. I wanted to give your recipe a try, but I’m allergic to walnuts. Any other suggestions?

    1. Hi Paula! You can skip the nuts altogether if you’d like. I just made pesto today – basil is trying to go to seed in my garden – and we ate it for lunch. I didn’t have nuts on hand so I just skipped. The nuts do add texture and protein so if you have another nut you like and can eat, try it! I used to use pine nuts but they are too expensive for me to justify when walnuts work out fine. Let me know what you come up with. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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