How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto

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Basil pesto is easy to make and freeze, preserving the fresh flavors of summer. Healthy and versatile – pesto is perfect brushed on grilled meats, tossed with steamed veggies, or stirred into soup.

Putting pesto on pasta


I love preparing homemade basil pesto in bulk during the summer when fresh basil can be found in bunches. I can prepare the sauce in just minutes, and it’s also extremely versatile and ideal for freezing. When you’re in need of a quick lunch or dinner, you can take a cube of frozen pesto and have a sauced up pasta in minutes! It’s actually super simple, and I’ll show you how easy it is to make and freeze your own basil pesto.

Ingredients

  • Fresh basil: Whether from your own yard or the store or farmer’s market, it needs to be fresh!
  • Parmesan: Nutty and salty, it adds texture and flavor to the sauce.
  • Pine nuts: Instead of using raw pine nuts, I like to toast them to add a deep, rich flavor.
  • Garlic: Earthy, nutty, and somewhat spicy, it adds rich flavor to the pesto.
  • Lemon juice and zest: Brightens up the flavor while adding an acidic balance to the olive oil, cheese, and nuts.
  • Olive oil: Helps to evenly distrubute the ingredients as they blend and gives the pesto its spreadable consistency.

how to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto

Toasted pine nuts

Start making your pesto by toasting your pine nuts. Toss them in the oven at 350 for about 6 or 7 minutes, until nice and brown.

Drying basil

While the pine nuts are toasting, you can wash and dry your fresh basil.

Adding basil leaves to food proccessor

Then pick the basil leaves off of the stems and add to a food processor.

Adding parmesan cheese to food processor

Followed by the grated parmesan cheese.

Adding lemon zest to pesto

Then add your garlic cloves and fresh lemon zest.

Adding pine nuts to pesto

Next add your toasted pine nuts.

Adding salt to pesto

Finish with some salt and pepper to taste, before turning on your food processor.

adding olive oil to pesto

As your pesto blends, slowly add the olive oil until it arrives at your desired consistency.

Adding lemon juice to pesto

Finish it off with the fresh lemon juice, and you are ready to serve over some pasta, brushed onto grilled meat, or whatever you can think of!

How to make and freeze basil pesto.

However if you aren’t using it all for your dish, take a clean ice cube tray and fill with the pesto. Cover (plastic wrap will work if your trays don’t come with lids), and place in the freezer. Alternatively, you could put dollops of pesto in plastic wrap or in Ziploc bags and freeze them that way! You’ll now have basil pesto at the ready for months going forward!

Easy Substitutions

  • If you don’t have basil: spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro
  • Instead of the parmesan : pecorino, romano, or Grana Padano cheese
  • In place of the pine nuts : walnuts, pistachios, or cashews

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does homemade pesto keep for?

Pesto keeps for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

How long does frozen pesto keep for?

Frozen pesto will keep for at least 3 months.

Does olive oil have to be used to make pesto?

Olive oil prevents oxidation and slows the pesto from turning brown. I’ve never tried not using olive oil.

How to make and freeze basil pesto on pasta.

Recipes with Pesto

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Liz eating fresh basil pesto.

Eat it now, or eat it later, now that you know how to make and freeze basil pesto, you’ll start using it all the time!

Your fork is waiting.

Putting pesto on pasta

How To Make And Freeze Basil Pesto

Liz Della Croce
Lemon juice and zest adds brightness and freshness to this traditional basil pesto recipe. Perfect for freezing and using later in pastas, soups, marinades and more.
4.29 stars average
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 24
Calories 119 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup pine nuts toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon juice and zest of
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • To toast pine nuts, place on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 350 for 6-7 minutes until browned.
  • In a large food processor, pulse together basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest.
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 119kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 2gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 64mgPotassium: 42mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 245IUVitamin C: 3.2mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 0.3mg
Keyword how to make and freeze pesto
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89 responses to “How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto”

  1. Laurie {SimplyScratch} Avatar
    Laurie {SimplyScratch}

    I was just staring at my basil plant thinking “I need to make some pesto!” and poof.. here it is :) Looks great and I WILL be freezing my pest in ice cube trays!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      That’s awesome!! It’s a sign you need to make pesto!!

  2. Cookin Canuck Avatar
    Cookin Canuck

    It’s always wonderful to have summer-fresh pesto in the freezer during the long winter. Great post, Liz!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Thanks Dara! I agree. My goal is to freeze as much summer as I can before the baby arrives. :)

  3. Shanna@ pineapple and coconut Avatar
    Shanna@ pineapple and coconut

    I totally freeze pesto the same way!! This is how I made my kids baby food too. Ice cube trays are so versatile! ha ha. We have several basil plants growing in our backyard here in Vegas. My 5 year old will pick leaves and eat them like they are chips or something. Crazy kiddo

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I love eating the leaves like chips too – hahah!!

  4. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking Avatar
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    ALL of these years I’ve been making basil pesto and never considered freezing it! What a brilliant tip, Liz. This is so useful, especially since I can’t get enough of the stuff year-round and homemade tastes SO much better than store bought.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Yes freezing it is the best!!! So much tastier than those tiny bottles for $6 at the grocery store. :)

  5. Christy@SweetandSavoring Avatar
    Christy@SweetandSavoring

    I laughed when I saw the title- this post couldn’t be more timely! We have a ton of basil in our garden. I made sunflower seed pesto a few days ago, and just harvested a whole colander full of basil this afternoon. It’s so nice to know that the basil cubes will be patiently waiting for me in the freezer come December :)

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I love the idea of sunflower seed pesto!! So smart!

  6. Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain Avatar
    Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain

    And….bookmarked!! I totally need a reminder because when I stare at my tower-o-basil, I freak out and pee my pants. Can’t wait to get my pesto on!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I hope you made pesto instead of peeing your pants!

  7. dixya| food, pleasure, and health Avatar
    dixya| food, pleasure, and health

    i am making a batch of pesto and this came on a right time. thank you :)

  8. Putputt @ Putputt Eats Avatar
    Putputt @ Putputt Eats

    Omgosh, what a great trick! I would never have thought of doing this. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Susan Avatar
      Susan

      Hi thx for the recipe. I actually made pea pesto in the past so for those with treenut or even seed allergies this might work as well. For the person that asked about minimizing the oil I have also used vegetable broth or believe it or not tofu to make it creamy

      1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
        Liz DellaCroce

        That’s a great idea!

  9. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles Avatar
    Brenda @ a farmgirl’s dabbles

    I just made pesto last week and our youngest put it in trays for the freezer. Like you said, “money in the bank”!! Great post, Liz!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      It really is money in the bank!!! Thanks friend. :)

  10. EA-The Spicy Rd Avatar
    EA-The Spicy Rd

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to try this! I love, love, love pesto, but have never tried the freezer method. Now I just need to go load up on basil and other yummy greens :-)

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Yes you must freeze it!! You’ll be so glad you did!!