Last week I pulled the 2 basil plants I enjoyed all summer out of my garden and made a big batch of my favorite classic basil pesto recipe. Instead of enjoying the pesto I made for dinner that night, I decided to freeze it to enjoy over the winter. Preserving and canning the vegetables and herbs I have grown is foreign territory to me, but it comes with a new sense of excitement. Part of eating seasonally is having to say goodbye to big juicy tomatoes once the weather turns cool and to eat as much asparagus as you possibly can for the very short period of time it’s in season. I’m now starting to explore the ways I can preserve and enjoy the vegetables and herbs that I grow all year long.

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I started vegetable gardening knowing next to nothing. More often than not, I was underprepared and found myself combatting pest and bug issues far too late to be effective. The wonderful thing about being ignorant, at least in this case, is that you’re living in the present moment, completely unaware of the beetles and worms that are decimating your tomatoes and eggplants. I went about my business watering my plants every morning, harvesting whatever appeared ready, and pruning plants back when needed. As I picked eggplants, cucumbers, and okra I made dinner plans in my head, but never once did I think about preserving the things I had grown for the cooler months ahead. As I’ve started learning more about canning and preservation, I picked up this book as a guide and to get me started.

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe ingredients in food processor

Somehow we are already approaching mid-October, apples are now in season and my garden is now sprouting cooler weather greens, radishes, beets, and fennel. As temperatures cool and we transition to morning bowls of oatmeal and hearty soups and stews for supper, it is a treat to pull a jar of pesto from the freezer on a day when you’re craving the harvest of warmer temperatures. You’ll thank the younger you from several months back who thought ahead and knew how much you’d enjoy a big bowl of pesto pasta.

This is my go-to classic basil pesto recipe. Instead of using pine nuts that are most often called for in traditional pestos, I substitute toasted walnuts. Walnuts because I always have them on hand for oatmeal and toasting them adds a bit of depth to the pesto’s flavor. While you won’t typically find fresh lemon juice in pesto, I love the bright acidic flavor it brings to the sauce and I think you will too. Regarding texture, I like my pesto on the chunkier side. I much prefer for each and every pasta noodle to have little pesto chunks clinging to them, versus the pesto being ultra-smooth.

Classic basil pesto recipe with pastaA delicious and brightly flavored pesto made with handfuls of basil from the garden, toasted walnuts, shredded parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice for a brighter flavor, and good quality olive oil. A simple list of ingredients makes this classic basil pesto recipe something you should always have on hand for those last minute meals.

Enjoy this classic basil pesto recipe tossed with pasta and topped with parmesan cheese, spread on sourdough bread with grilled veggies, on your homemade pizza, mixed into a white bean soup, or preserved in the freezer for the coming winter months. Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Classic Basil Pesto
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins

We grow basil all summer to produce delicious pesto to enjoy all year long. This classic basil pesto recipe is so simple, deliciously flavorful, and just asking to be enjoyed with pasta, spread on a sandwich, added to soup, or preserved for the cool months ahead. 

Yields 1 1/4 cups

Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Caitlin
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. In a small skillet over medium heat toast the walnuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant and a few shades darker. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

  2. Add 1/2 the basil, garlic, cheese, and the toasted walnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until combined, but not pureed. Add the remaining basil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt. Pulse again to combine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

  3. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil and process until mixed. Scrape down the sides and taste for salt. Store in the fridge and use within 1 week, or store in a glass container or ice cube trays in the freezer.


If you don't like walnuts or you simply don't have them on hand, you can substitute raw cashews or pine nuts. 

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