Try this recipe for classic homemade pesto, then check out our kale pesto, vegan pesto, tomato passata, tomato pasta sauce, kale pasta sauce and more pasta sauce recipes. For another herby condiment, try our zingy salsa verde.

What is pesto?

Pesto is a cold pasta sauce from Genoa in Italy and although the name pesto is used for various similar cold sauces the classic green one we are all familiar with is properly called pesto alla Genovese

How do you make pesto sauce?

Traditionally pesto would have been made in a large pestle and mortar with each of the ingredients being added and pounded in turn until the right consistency was reached (the word pesto comes from the Italian word ‘pestare’ which means pounded). In modern recipes, a food processor is often used to speed things up.

Which ingredients are in pesto sauce?

The classic ingredients in pesto alla Genovese are basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil and Parmesan, Grana Padano or pecorino.

There are loads of variations on this original recipe. Other nuts such as walnuts, cashews and almonds are sometimes substituted for the more expensive pine nuts and using leaves like watercress, rocket and even kale in place of basil is also popular. Red pesto is actually a classic Sicilian recipe and is made with almonds and sun dried tomatoes. Vegan pestos use creamy cashews and brazil nuts to stand in for the missing cheese.

How long does pesto last?

Once made, fresh pesto is best used straight away, but will keep for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Pesto sauce recipe


  • a large bunch (approx. 100g) basil, leaves picked
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50g parmesan, finely grated


  • STEP 1

    Put the basil, salt, garlic and pine nuts into a small food processor and pulse until broken down. Drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a smooth-ish sauce with a little texture remaining. Tip into a bowl and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

Comments, questions and tips

Rate this recipe

What is your star rating out of 5?

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Overall rating