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Easy 5 Minute Pesto + Freezing Basil Pesto

This quick and easy 5 minute pesto comes together in a breeze thanks to the help of a processor. Fresh basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts are blended together to form a vibrant and flavorful paste. You’ll want to mix this gorgeous green sauce into every meal! 

Scooping up pesto from a jar with a spoon.

I’ll show you how to choose the best ingredients for pesto, how to make it, and how to freeze it. I also have a bunch of ideas for using your pesto sauce!

But first…

What is pesto? 

Classic Genoese pesto is an Italian paste or sauce made from crushed basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. It comes from Genoa, Italy. 

Traditionally, it is made using a mortar & pestle. But we’ll use a food processor to make a quick and easy pesto that comes together in 5 minutes! 

There are lots of variations of pesto made these days. I’m going to show you how to make it with the classic ingredients.

Is homemade pesto better than store-bought?

I’ll admit, I will use a jar of store-bought basil in the winter if I don’t have a freezer stash of homemade pesto. But come on ya’ll, homemade pesto made with fresh basil is SO much better than store-bought! 

Store-bought is heated to make it shelf-stable. Heat changes the flavor profiles of the ingredients, especially the basil! 

Making it yourself also ensures that you have complete control over the ingredients. Better ingredients = the best quality pesto! 

Ingredients for making 5 minute pesto

Fresh basil leaves, garlic, parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, and salt on a cutting board.

Fresh, sweet basil is the only basil to use for traditional pesto. There is no substitute, and dried basil will not work. Make pesto in summer or early fall when basil is in season. It is flavorful, aromatic, and full of healthy antioxidants.  Basil is easy to grow. You ought to have a few plants in your garden! It even does well in containers on a patio or balcony. I can sometimes find little refrigerated backs of basil in the produce section. 

Parmesan cheese adds a savory umami flavor and creaminess to the pesto. Start with a block and grate it yourself. Do not use pre-grated. High-quality Parmigiano Reggiano is the best. 

Pine nuts provide a mild, slightly nutty flavor and an almost buttery feel.

Garlic delivers a pungent and almost spicy punch to the pesto. It also pairs wonderfully with fresh basil.

Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil to bring everything together. It has a smooth, silky feel and a complex flavor. You’ll be able to taste the difference in quality if you use good olive oil. Here is a guide to help you choose an olive oil.

Just a pinch of salt will enhance the flavor of everything! 

Pesto without pine nuts

There are a few reasons you may want to substitute the pine nuts. They can sometimes be hard to find. They are also expensive. Some folks even find pine nuts to be extremely bitter

I personally love them!

If you want to make a no pine nut pesto, the best substitution is walnuts. You can replace the pine nuts with an equal amount of dried walnut pieces. 

How to make 5 minute pesto

We’re using a food processor to make a quick and easy pesto! 

Peel and lightly crush the garlic. Use a cheese grater to finely shred the parmesan cheese.

Add the garlic and pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor that is fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until they form a paste. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the paste off the bottom of the bowl but leave it in the bowl.

Add the basil and parmesan. Pulse until it forms a paste. Stop to scrape the bowl if needed, to make sure everything comes together.

Finished pesto sauce in a food processor.

Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Stop and scrape if needed. It should form a thick, chunky paste. If it’s too thick, drizzle in more olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Freezing basil pesto

Every year, I like to make a few big batches of basil pesto to freeze. It can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Pro-tip: I have a button on the recipe card that will double or triple the recipe for you!

I like to freeze it a couple of ways. The best way to freeze pesto is in small freezer-safe jars. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays for extra convenience.

How to freeze pesto in jars

Use a clean, freezer-safe jar. These 4-ounce jars are perfect for freezing 1/2 cup of homemade pesto. 

Pour in the pesto, leaving ½ inch headspace. Top with a thin layer of olive oil to preserve freshness, and put the lid on. Freeze for up to 3 months. 

How to freeze pesto in ice cube trays

Pour the pesto into a silicone ice cube tray. Be careful to fill one slot at a time. Place the ice cube tray of pesto in the freezer. Once frozen solid, remove the frozen pesto cubes and place them in a freezer bag. Seal the bag and place it back in the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months. 

How to use frozen pesto

Remove the jar or ice cube from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight. Stir before using. 

Pro-tip:  If you’re planning to stir the recipe in a soup like minestrone, you can add a frozen cube of pesto directly to the soup and stir it until it thaws and dissolves.

What to make with pesto

For a simple pasta that lets the fresh pesto shine, make Basil Pesto Penne

Cook penne to al dente, according to the package directions. Strain the penne but reserve some of the pasta water.

Toss the freshly cooked penne with pesto. Drizzle in a small amount of the reserved pasta water to thin and smooth the sauce. Toss it again. Top with grated parm and serve!

A white dish full of basil pesto penne with grated parmesan on top.

More uses for pesto

A jar of fresh made basil pesto with a spoon in it.

Frequently asked questions

Is pesto gluten free?

Yes, this pesto is gluten-free! There are lots of gluten-free meals that pair with it.

How long does homemade pesto last?

Use the pesto immediately or store it in the fridge for up to one week. I have instructions in this post for freezing pesto to keep it fresh longer. 

Can I make a large batch of pesto?

Yes! You can make large batches of pesto. The trick is to make sure you have a large-capacity food processor. It needs to be able to crush everything up with ease. I have a Cuisinart 14-cup food processor, and I love it! 

Freshly harvested basil in a white bucket.

Do you have an abundance of fresh basil growing? What’s your favorite way to use it?


Easy 5 Minute Pesto + Freezing Basil Pesto

Spooning fresh homemade pesto from a jar.

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Quick and easy basil pesto made in a food processor. With fresh basil, garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

  • Author: Mandi
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blend
  • Cuisine: Italian


Units Scale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

*more extra virgin olive oil if freezing


  1. Pulse the pine nuts and garlic in the food processor to make a paste. Scrape the sides.
  2. Add the basil, parmesan, and salt. Pulse to form a thick paste.
  3. Turn the food processor on and drizzle in the olive oil until a thick, chunky paste forms.
  4. Let it sit for a few minutes, then taste to see if it needs more salt.
  5. If it is too thick, drizzle in more olive oil until the desired consistency is reached.


Enjoy now or store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

To freeze: pour into a clean, freezer-safe jar, leaving ½ inch headspace. Top with a thin layer of olive oil to preserve freshness, and put the lid on. Freeze for up to 3 months.

No pine nut pesto: Replace the pine nuts with an equal amount of dried walnut pieces.


  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 167
  • Sugar: 0.1 g
  • Sodium: 124.2 mg
  • Fat: 17.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 2.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 3.6 mg

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @mandiofthemountains on Instagram – I can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

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