Preserving the Basil with Pesto

Basil is such a versatile herb in the kitchen. We use it all the time, in sauces and soups, on pizzas, and with vegetables and egg dishes. Basil is a warm weather herb that won’t tolerate any cold or frost, so in October our season for fresh basil is just about over. Basil can be dried or even frozen for later use. But another easy way to have basil in the winter months is to make pesto, and freeze it.

fresh basil for pesto (click on any image to enlarge)

Pesto purists may scoff at the idea of frozen pesto, but for my tastes homemade pesto beats anything you’ll ever buy at the store, even after it’s been frozen. There is much debate as to whether to freeze the pesto before or after adding the cheese, but I’ve tried it both ways and can’t tell much difference. You can always do like I did and try it both ways and see for yourself.

Basil Pesto

There’s also more than one way to freeze the pesto. I usually put some in jars, but I also like to spoon the pesto into a plastic ice cube tray. Once the cubes are frozen, I pop them out and put them in a freezer bag. The cubes are perfect to drop in a pot of soup, or add to vegetables when cooking.

freezing pesto in ice cube tray

This pesto is a great way to capture the flavor and aroma of basil. This recipe will make a pesto that is chunky and light on oil. To make a smoother pesto just add more oil. It can be made with walnuts, pine nuts or even pistachio nuts.

Basil Pesto Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
Adapted from several recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (about 3 oz.)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
dash Salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Peccorino Romano cheese

1. Place all ingredients except cheese in food processor. Process to desired consistency, using short bursts.

2. Stir in cheese. Pulse until just combined.

3. Store in airtight container. To help preserve the pesto, cover the top of the pesto with a layer of olive oil.

4. The pesto keeps for a week in the refrigerator, or 6 months in the freezer.

Servings: 20 (serving size 1 tbsp)
Yield: 1-1/4 cup

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 73 calories, 65 calories from fat, 7.4g total fat, 2.2mg cholesterol, 46.4mg sodium, 33.2mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.4g protein, 37.1mg calcium, 1.3g saturated fat.

After making this batch of pesto I had to have a taste. It was great on a slice of our homemade sourdough bread!

pesto on crusty bread


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16 Responses to Preserving the Basil with Pesto

  1. I’ve already made my pesto, but I had to ask ……what happened to Villager? When I saw this post come up in my reader, I couldn’t figure out who “Dave” was, LOL!

    Hello Dave, I’m Carol 😉

  2. Ginny says:

    I have a soap question. I was given a bar of handmade soap that was the slimiest thing I’ve ever felt. I thought perhaps it hadn’t been cured properly, so I left it unwrapped for a year. But when I used it again it was still slimy. I don’t know if there is a better description, but long strands of goo would cling to my hands as I put the bar down.

    Does that describe a known condition in handmade soap? I’ve used lots of different kinds, but this is the only one that did that.

    • Dave says:

      Ginny, we’ve never run into that with any soap, but it’s possible that it contains a high percentage of soybean oil, which is notorious for soaps that don’t get sudsy and can leave a slimy feel. It’s also possible it has too much lye in it. I’d throw it out if it were me!

  3. Robin says:

    I just freeze my pesto plain without any cheese or pine nuts. Do you believe “The Italian” isn’t that crazy about pine nuts?

    Thanks for joining in and sharing your recipe!

    Boy, that bread is making me hungry!

  4. Wilderness says:

    Love the pesto. Haven’t made any lately. I also chop my basil and freeze it in ice cube trays. I put a tablespoon per cube and cover with water. It too is great to just drop what you want into a sauce or dish.

  5. mac says:

    Neat idea, have to try freezing pesto in ice cube tray.

  6. mandy says:

    i have frozen so much pesto this year. the last two huge batches i made with roasted sunflower seeds instead of walnuts (I ‘downgraded’ from pine nuts to walnuts last year). jay and i decided the flavor wasn’t much different or any ‘less’ than the walnut type and OH SO MUCH less expensive. I know it’s not as high quality of a fat, but for our budget (and the sheer insane amount of pesto I’ve made) it works! Oh, also made a batch with canola instead of olive oil not as good, but totally decent for large pasta dishes.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the tip, I will try the toasted sunflower seeds if I make another batch this year. For this batch of pesto I used the Sam’s Club brand EVOO that comes in the 3 liter jug. To me the pesto is mostly about the basil, so as long as the basil is tasty I am usually happy with the pesto.

  7. I so need to do this! I have a lot of basil waiting, impatiently, to be turned into pesto. I meant to do it today, but had to do a hive post-mortem instead. Maybe tomorrow. I agree, frozen and thawed, it beats anything you can buy. I haven’t noticed much difference with cheese and/or garlic before or after freezing, but I do tend to add it after it’s thawed mostly out of habit. I also use a splash of lemon in the pesto, as sometimes those pesky leaves want to brown as they’re minced. Helps to ensure the color stays nice and bright. Rats, now I’m hungry for pesto pizza!

  8. kitsapFG says:

    I missed my opportunity to harvest any really good amount of basil to do pesto this year. I harvested small amounts of the herb for fresh cooking and was getting a nice stand growing with the intent to do some pesto and freeze it … and then the cold rains came and it started going “black” on me. (sigh) I really should not have procrastinated. Oh well, I intend to do a small potted basil under my indoor grow lights later this month so I should be able to get some to make up small fresh batches as needed.

  9. Liz says:

    Is it bad form to tell you how happy I am that our basil season is about to start???? I will definitely freeze some in pesto form this year – usually I just freeze the leaves but actually it makes more sense to freeze it already made up.

  10. Jody says:

    I gotta tell you, basil and all the other herbs really frustrate me. They’re very expensive in the stores, but the timing we have for growing them and using what we’ve grown recipes really stinks! You’re pesto recipe seems like a great way to capture fresh basil for times when we want it for a recipe. Thanks for sharing. I’d love to know how you put that “Print This Recipe” format together.

    • Dave says:

      Jody, that recipe print feature is a WordPress plugin called “WP-Print”. I don’t know if Blogger has anything like it or not, but in WP it is really easy to use. One of the reasons my wife and I both chose WP for our blogs was because of the huge number of user-written routines available (plugins).

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