You can’t get pesto this good from a jar…unless you put it there yourself, that is. Store-bought renditions don’t hold a candle to this real-deal (seriously easy) Creamy Pesto Sauce! It’s rich, velvety smooth and packed with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and tons of flavor. Savory notes are balanced and brightened with freshly squeezed lemon juice for a sauce that’s simply over-the-top delicious!
Requiring only 6 ingredients and 5 minutes to make, you can count on this homemade pesto sauce to be your go-to, weeknight dinner secret weapon!
It’ll amp just about any dinner in a flash! Serve it over pasta or chicken, use it as a pizza sauce, or as a spread across a hunky slice of Homemade Garlic Bread! Can’t resist a good pesto-sauced pasta? Try this quick and easy Pesto Chicken Pasta next!
WHAT IS PESTO?
Pesto is an Italian-born sauce that can be made using either a mortar and pestle or (a much more modern approach) in a food processor.
It is made up mostly of basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Garlic is also a key ingredient. Once all of the aforementioned ingredients have been finely crushed, oil is then emulsified into the mixture, and you have [voila] basil pesto!
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TYPES OF PESTO
There are many different types of pestos. For example, the basil can be replaced with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, or even arugula. The nuts are also interchangeable, and pine nuts could be swapped out for another oily nut like pecans or walnuts.
Some pestos are smoother and creamier than others (hence this extra Creamy Pesto Sauce made in a food processor), some are more rugged in texture, some are more acidic, and the list goes on!
USES FOR PESTO
It can be used as a sauce for warm pasta dishes or cold pasta salads, a spread for sandwiches, a topper for grilled meats, or even a dip for bread!
WHAT MAKES A PESTO CREAMY?
You can make a Creamy Basil Pesto without the use of any heavy cream at all. Trust — there is plenty of fat in the Parmesan Cheese and the pine nuts to go around. So! If you want your pesto extra creamy, just add more cheese and extra pine nuts. That is precisely what we did for this recipe, and you’ll find it positively delicious.
HOW TO MAKE CREAMY PESTO SAUCE
- Add Ingredients To the Food Processor – Add basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Process To a Paste– Process until everything in the bowl is very finely minced and appears paste-like in texture.
- Add Oil – With the food processor still running, slowly drizzle in the oil through the food processor’s feed tube. Process the mix again until the pesto is smooth and well-combined.
As mentioned above, to make a creamy Basil Pesto Sauce, cream really isn’t necessary at all. Pine nuts and Parmesan will give you all the creamy vibes you so desire!
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Fresh Basil
- Pine Nuts
- Parmesan Cheese
- Lemon Juice
- Salt and Pepper
- Avocado or Olive Oil
A CASE FOR AVOCADO OIL
Wait…what? Avocado oil? But, why?
Unfortunately, good olive oil isn’t necessarily hard to come by, but it can be pret-ty pricey. If you’ve ever made pesto or a salad dressing from scratch and wondered why it has a bitter aftertaste (wamp, wamp, wamp), it’s probably your olive oil. And, the sad thing is, you can pay a decent amount of money and get a not-so-decent tasting oil in return.
Now, that being said, if you have an olive oil brand that you love, by all means, use it! It’s a classic in pesto! If you have yet to find the right one, I suggest you use avocado oil instead.
Avocado oil is a healthy, flavorless oil and it makes for a rich and extra creamy Pesto Sauce! Bonus alert: Because it is flavorless, it really allows the flavor of the basil, lemon, Parmesan, and garlic to shine!
WHICH BASIL TO USE FOR CREAMY PESTO SAUCE
There are multiple varieties of basil out there. Sweet basil, Thai basil, and even lemon or lime basil. The one you want for this Creamy Pesto Sauce is sweet basil, more commonly known as Genovese basil.
This is the one you’re most likely to find at the grocery store, with rounded, cup-shaped leaves. It is herbaceous and sweet, with mild peppery notes. You might notice a touch of licorice in the Genovese variety, although there won’t be nearly as much licorice flavor as the Thai basil boasts.
5 MORE ITALIAN RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Italian Meatloaf
- Bruschetta Chicken
- Parmesan Pork Chops
- Chicken Primavera Pasta
- Stuffed Shells with Meat and Cheese
A Creamy Pesto Sauce recipe that's easy to make, and comes together in just 5 minutes!
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Generous 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup avocado oil or high-quality olive oil
Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until all of the ingredients are finely minced and a paste-like mixture forms.
With the food processor on, very slowly drizzle in the oil through the feed tube. Toss with warm pasta (if desired) and enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups.