all purpose pesto

all purpose pesto

This all purpose pesto is a delicious classic that can jazz up a myriad of dishes. When I buy fresh basil for various Italian recipes I always end up with a couple handfuls of fresh leaves left over. I always plan to use the spare basil for other dishes but the leaves are often forgotten in the back of the fridge only to be discovered when they are wilted and black. To avoid dreaded food waste I developed this all purpose pesto recipe that can be stored for a week in the refrigerator (or up to 6 months in the freezer). 

all purpose pesto

There are many recipes for pesto at your disposal so I’m glad you’re checking out this one. My recipe creates a thick pesto paste that you can use as a base for various dishes. Add ¼ cup of pesto to a ¼ cup of reserved pasta water and toss with hot pasta for a delicious lunch. Increase the olive oil in the recipe to ½ cup and you have a delicious marinade for chicken, shrimp, or fish. Spread the thick pesto, as is, over bread before making a killer turkey sandwich or grilled cheese. 

No matter how you choose to use this all purpose pesto, you can save your food dollars and kick up the flavor in many dishes with this simple recipe. Use this pesto as a base for a creamy pesto chicken pasta, broccoli pesto soup, easy pesto vegetable tart or get creative and come up with your own herby concoction. 

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all purpose pesto

all purpose pesto

  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos


  • 3 cups of fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese, grated 
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, pine nuts or almonds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Juice of half a fresh lemon
  • ⅓ cup olive oil (or up to ½ cup, see note)


  1. Place the basil, garlic, cheese, nuts, salt, chili flakes (if using), and lemon juice in a food processor. 
  2. Pulse the food processor a couple times to break down some of the basil. 
  3. With the processor running on low, stream the olive oil into the food processor bowl through the feed tube until fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically with a rubber spatula. 
  4. Blend the pesto just until everything is fully combined (30-60 seconds) you’re looking for a uniform paste not a soupy mess. 
  5. Expect the pesto to be thick. This recipe is intended to create a thick base that you can use for various dishes. 
  6. Transfer the pesto to a canning jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Alternatively, transfer the pesto to a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. 


This pesto can be used as a sandwich spread, thinned out with pasta water for a sauce, or combined with more olive oil for a marinade. 

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