Make pesto like a chef–for pennies–and have a taste of summer all year long!



Pesto costs fifteen bucks for a tiny jar in the store–enough for my dinner alone.  If  you knew how cheap it was to make, you’d be mad.

Grow some basil. Harvest it. Put it in the blender or food processor, and make enough for the year in about ten minutes. Here’s how.

How to grow basil.

Start it from scratch or get some plants from the garden store. Any type of mainstream basil will work. I use Genovese basil.

Here, I plant it outside around the same time as I plant tomatoes and peppers–it’s not cold tolerant. “Deadhead” the plants by pinching off all flowers right when you see them. This sends the energy to the leaves and causes more side branches to grow since the plant wants to flower and seed. But here, we want the leaves.

Harvest the basil often. Take off the tops and cook with them or start to freeze them. I save a big freezer bag of basil to crumble in dishes all winter.  I dry some, too.

The more you pinch or harvest basil, the more it’ll grow.

You need a large bunch to make basil. So, plant a bunch or harvest often and refrigerate in a zip lock bag with a damp paper towel inside.  You can collect more over a week or so until you have enough to avoid making a hundred tiny batches.


  • Servings: variable
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts or, a mix of pine nuts and walnuts.
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1.  Cut up the cheese into small squares or grate it.
  2. Add everything to a blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Use or freeze flat on a cookie sheet. When frozen, cut into squares and store in a ziplock bag or foodsaver bag. Use throughout the ywar.
  • Add some avocado. Mix up the nuts. Change up the amount of ingredients–more or less garlic, lower ratio of olive oil.
  • Add in some olives to make a tapenade.




VEGAN: Sub a spoon of nutritional yeast or vegan parm for the parmesan cheese.

KETO:  Yes.

COOK AHEAD:  This freezes well. You can store it in the fridge for a while, too.

COST: $  Nearly free.  I got the parm at Trader Joes for about four bucks. I get a jar of pine nuts from a local vendor every year–I don’t use the whole thing.  And, I keep fresh garlic and olive oil in my pantry.

Pro Tips:

  • Make a big batch of pesto–freeze it in an ice cube tray, on a cookie sheet (then chop) or store in Foodsaver bags. I use this all winter.
  • Make totally different flavor profiles using different types of basil or oil–for example, Thai basil, peanuts and peanut oil.  You can sub any green, nut or oil in or out of this one to travel the world.
  • I used to do this in the food processor but I do it in a Vitamix these days. Chop the cheese and nuts first in a the 20 oz container if you’ve got that. If not, just use the big container.  If making a big batch, pre chop cheese or pre-blend in a couple batches before mixing the whole thing together.


Uses for your pesto

  • Toss with pasta
  • Use in soups
  • Substitute for fresh basil in any recipe that needs basil
  • Use as a spread on bruschetta
  • Put a scoop in a pasta salad
  • Create dips and dressings
  • Make a cream sauce by adding a bit of heavy cream into the mix


Post photo by Caroline Attwood