The secret ingredient in the best Homemade Pesto recipe is actually baby spinach. It mellows the bite of the basil just a little bit, so that the flavor of the pesto doesn’t overpower other ingredients. Plus, it’s nice and bright green!

A bowl of homemade pesto sauce garnished with pine nuts and fresh basil.

Homemade Pesto Sauce is Worlds Better Than Store Bought!

Basil pesto is one of my favorite ingredients, but I have to confess that sometimes, the basil flavor is simply too strong for my tastebuds.

I like basil, I really do. But depending on how pungent the basil used to make the pesto is, sometimes it has a way of overpowering every other flavor in the dish I’m using it in.

Last month, I noticed that one of my favorite little gourmet grocery stores included spinach on the list of ingredients in their basil pesto.

At first, I thought this was really odd. But after buying it, tasting it, and using it in recipes, I’ve realized this is truly the perfect solution.

Just a bit of spinach, added in with the basil, has a way of ever so slightly mellowing the bite of the basil. The flavor of the basil absolutely still shines through. It just doesn’t overpower. Plus, the spinach keeps the pesto nice and bright green as an added bonus.

The homemade pesto recipe below is the result of many rounds of testing, until I got the basil-to-spinach ratio just right, just like the gourmet grocery store.

Why You Will Love This Homemade Pesto Recipe

  • Nothing beats the fresh taste of homemade pesto. This one is packed with high-quality ingredients.
  • You can tweak the recipe to suit your taste preferences, whether you like it garlicky, cheesy or nutty.
  • You’ll want to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for everything – pasta, sandwiches, dips and more!

Homemade Basil Pesto Ingredients

  • garlic – gives an aromatic, pungent (in a good way!) depth of flavor to the pesto.
  • basil – the star of the show! This is the ingredient that gives the pesto it’s signature taste.
  • baby spinach – not all recipes call for this, but ours does. It mellows the flavor of the basil just enough to make it a bit more enjoyable, and adds a bright green color.
  • Parmesan cheese – adds a salty, umami richness.
  • pine nuts – contribute a nutty, creamy texture and flavor.
  • lemon juice – adds acidity to balance the richness of the cheese and oil.
  • lemon zest – provides an extra prop of bright flavor.
  • salt and pepper – enhances the flavor of all the other ingredients.
  • red pepper flakes – just a pinch adds a light heat that’s not overpowering.
  • olive oil – binds the ingredients together into one rich sauce.

How to Make this Homemade Pesto Sauce Recipe

A food processor filled with herbs, cheese, nuts, lemon zest, garlic and spices.

1. ADD. Place the garlic, basil, spinach, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade attachment.

A food processor filled with finely chopped herbs, cheese, nuts, lemon zest, garlic and spices.

2. PROCESS. Pulse until the mixture is very finely chopped.

A food processor filled with finely chopped herbs, cheese, nuts, lemon zest, garlic and spices, pureed with oil.

3. OIL. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until all oil is incorporated.

Home Chefs Tips for Pesto, Homemade

  • Use the freshest basil and the best quality Parmesan and olive oil you can find.
  • Lightly toast the pine nuts before adding them to the pesto for the best flavor.
  • For a chunkier pesto, pulse the ingredients less. For a smoother texture, blend longer.
A bowl of a homemade pesto recipe garnished with pine nuts and fresh basil.

Best Homemade Pesto Variations

  • NUT FREE – Omit the pine nuts or use sunflower seeds for a nut-free pesto.
  • VEGAN – use nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan for a dairy-free version that still tastes kind of cheesy.
A bowl of a homemade pesto sauce recipe in front of a cut pizza with blistered tomatoes on it.

Homemade Basil Pesto Serving Suggestions

  • PASTA – Toss this pesto with your favorite pasta, or check out our Salmon Pesto Pasta or Pesto Pasta with Veggies.
  • SANDWICHES – Spread pesto on sandwiches or wraps for a burst of flavor.
  • PIZZA – Swap traditional tomato sauce for pesto on a pizza with our Pesto Chicken Pizza.
  • PROTEIN – Spread pesto over cooked chicken or seafood for a flavor-packed entree. Our Pesto Salmon is one of our favorites!
  • DIP – Use pesto as a dip for veggies or breadsticks.
  • CROUTONS – Make pesto croutons, like in our Grilled Peach and Burrata Salad.

Storing Homemade Pesto Sauce

Place pesto in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week. Give it a good stir before serving again.

To freeze homemade basil pesto in small portions so that you’re able to thaw what you need, when you need it, place pesto in ice cube trays. Transfer trays to freezer until cubes are frozen solid, then transfer cubes to zip-top freezer bag and freeze up to three months.

A bowl of homemade basil pesto garnished with pine nuts and fresh basil.
A bowl of homemade pesto sauce garnished with pine nuts and fresh basil.

Homemade Pesto Recipe

The secret ingredient in the best Homemade Pesto recipe is actually baby spinach. It mellows the bite of the basil just a little bit, so that the flavor of the pesto doesn't overpower other ingredients. Plus, it's nice and bright green!
5 from 1 rating

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup loosely packed baby spinach
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • cup pine nuts toasted for best flavor
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Place garlic, basil, spinach, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in bowl of food processor fitted with knife blade attachment. Pulse until mixture is very finely chopped.
  • With processor running, slowly drizzle in oil until all oil is incorporated. Makes 1 cup.
Serving: 2tablespoons, Calories: 138kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 220mg, Potassium: 68mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 0.3g, Vitamin A: 372IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 48mg, Iron: 1mg
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Did you make this recipe?Leave a Review below or share a photo and tag me on Instagram @foxeslovelemons with the hashtag #foxeslovelemons.