Homemade basil pesto has a much better flavour than store bought basil. But fresh pesto doesn't last long once made. To make the most of the summer crop of fresh basil leaves, we use this recipe to make bulk pesto and freeze it for use through the year.
The Best Basil for Pesto
You can get many different varieties of basil but the one that is best for classic basil pesto is Basil Genovese with large succulent leaves and a medium spicy flavour.
Smaller leafed basil varieties can be too pungent for making pesto, with flavours that overpower the other ingredients.
5 Tips for Growing Basil
- Basil loves heat and grows best when planted out in the early summer, once the soil has warmed up.
- Protect young basil plants from slugs
- Keep basil well watered for lush leaves
- Basil can be grown in pots
- If it starts to set flowers, pinch them out to encourage growth, and bushy plants
Alternatives to Pine Nuts for Homemade Pesto
Pine nuts are super expensive and although they add a beautiful flavour to pesto, they can be substituted for other cheaper nuts.
Our recipe uses toasted pumpkin seeds. We have also used hazelnuts, cashews and walnuts with good results.
5 Great Uses for Basil Pesto
- Toss basil pesto through freshly cooked pasta for a simple sauce
- Use as a pizza topping, or mix with the tomato to spread on the base
- Spread basil pesto on slices of focaccia bread and grill for crostini
- Swirl a spoon of pesto through tomato soup before serving
- Mix a spoon of pesto into savoury muffin dough for pesto muffins.
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Bulk Basil Pesto for the Freezer
Country Trading Co.
When fresh basil is plentiful, this bulk pesto recipe is the best. Make a big batch of pesto and freeze it for use through the year. With no pine nuts, it is more economical to make too.
These frozen cubes of pesto are super handy to pop into cooked pasta for an easy sauce, swirl through tomato soup or for topping pizzas.
9 cups fresh basil leaves (no stalks), packed tightly
3 cups pumpkin seeds
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
12 tablespoons of lemon juice
12 teaspoons of lemon zest (unwaxed lemon)
12 cloves of fresh garlic
12 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet on a medium heat until the just start to brown and pop - put them in a bowl and set aside to cool
Grate the parmesan cheese with a fine grater and measure out the quantity needed.
Peel the garlic and roughly chop it.
Zest the lemons then juice them and measure out the quantity needed of both
In a food processor, blend together the cooled pumpkin seeds, parmesan cheese and garlic until finely chopped.
Add all the basil leaves, lemon juice and zest and drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running.
Keep blending it until all the oil is mixed in and the ingredients are chopped to a coarse paste - not super smooth - you want to leave some texture in there.
Spoon the pesto into large silicone ice cube molds and freeze it.
The next day remove the pesto from the ice cube molds and store them in a container in the freezer for use throughout the year.
- Use large leaf Genovese Basil variety for the best flavour.
- You can substitute some parsley leaves if you don't have enough basil.
- You can also use other types of nuts instead of pumpkin seeds in the pesto. Cashew nuts, or hazelnuts make a nice pesto too.