How to Make and Preserve Pesto

If you saw my last garden post, you may have noticed that we’re pretty much swimming in basil here. Although I’ve been snipping off bits of basil for meals for weeks now, to make a really big dent I knew we’d have to make some pesto. (Quite the sacrifice, right? :)) Last weekend we finally got down to it. We harvested two bowls about this size:

Harvested basil

It was a lot of basil, but when I looked at the plants afterwards you could hardly tell that any was missing! Ha. I guess that just means that more pesto is in our future. Which is great, of course, because we like making and freezing a lot of pesto in the summer so that we can continue to enjoy it during the winter and spring, long after basil has gone out of season.

If you’ve never made pesto, it’s really not difficult. Picking off the leaves from the stems can be a bit time consuming, but it’s pretty mindless so it’s a great thing to do while watching TV or listening to a great podcast. (Like Harry Potter? Check out these.) If, like me, you hate cleaning your food processor, I recommend making at least a double batch at once. Whatever you don’t eat that night can go into the freezer for future pesto enjoyment.

Pesto Ingredients:

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

1/2 cup olive oil

3 medium garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste


Harvest basil from your basil plants or buy some at the store or farmers’ market. (I used this tutorial to learn how to harvest my basil.) Once harvested, remove the basil leaves from the stems. Rinse leaves then measure out three cups of leaves by loosely packing into a cup measure. Set aside.

Add garlic cloves to your food processor and process until minced. Add basil, parmesan cheese, and about half of the olive oil to the food processor and process for a few seconds. Add the other half of the olive oil and process a few seconds more, until basil is finely minced but not yet liquidy. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Processing pesto

Preserving Pesto

You can store pesto in the fridge if you’re going to eat it within a few days. For longer storage, however, I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays. Frozen pesto cubes allow you to easily add small amounts of pesto to future meals.  If you’re cooking a hot meal, you don’t even need to worry about defrosting beforehand—just throw the frozen cubes directly into your hot pan and wait for them to melt.

Pesto cubes ready for the freezer


Do you make pesto? What are your favorite pesto meals?


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14 Responses to How to Make and Preserve Pesto

  1. Jen says:
    Love this idea. I realllllly need to get ice cube trays. So many cool things that you can do to preserve with them.
  2. Jessica says:
    I love doing this! It is so great to have these cubes in the middle of winter to liven up pasta or a panini and tomato soup! I make even add cubes to my marinara sauce in the winter. I make a cilantro pesto and a basil pesto to freeze. Great post!
    • Meghan says:
      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jessica. I've never made cilantro pesto, but that sounds like it would be great for the freezer, too!
  3. ice cube trays are friggin brilliant! and i love the idea of freezing pesto this way so that if you want to use a lot, you can - but you don't have to. But let's be honest with each other: the more pesto the better. ;) thank you for taking the time to link up with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop! We hope to see you again this Wednesday with more fantastic seasonal & real food posts :) xo, kristy
  4. I'm going to give this a try, Meghan, with my basil that's piling up! Love that it doesn't use nuts since I'm having to avoid them for a bit. Thanks for sharing this at Fill Those Jars Friday. Hope to see you again later this week!
    • Meghan says:
      I hope it goes well for you! I like that it doesn't have nuts, either. One less ingredient to worry about preparing. :) Plus no point in adding a filler when you have a ton of basil!
  5. [...] How to Make and Preserve Pesto – This is a delicious recipe from Whole Natural Life that I made this week (with a slight modification).  You’ll love it! [...]
  6. Milehimama says:
    Came over from Tradtional Tuesdays- I had to click because I have SPINACH pesto on my menu this week. I'm going to try to make it in my Vitamix, hope it works. Thanks for the tutorial!
  7. Makes me wish I had more basil! Thanks for sharing with us at Scratch Cookin' Tuesday!
  8. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures' Make Your Own! Monday link-up. Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)
  9. Joe says:
    I would like to know, if there is a way to preserve pesto, without freezing, there must be, since some people are selling it on the shelf. Thanks, Joe.
    • Joe, I don't know. I'd assume that keeping pesto in the fridge would only preserve it for a few weeks. Since I like to keep pesto around for several months, freezing is the best option for me.

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