Large Batch Basil Pesto
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I’ve been trying to get this post out for weeks and almost, in fact, didn’t publish it because I feared at this point in the summer it might be irrelevant, but a trip to the Schenectady Greenmarket this past Sunday quelled my worries. Basil—in large bunches—is still readily available and affordable. And perhaps your backyard basil bushes are flourishing, too? (Mine are dead.)
Three weeks in a row (several weeks ago now), an enormous bunch (or two!) of basil arrived in our CSA. Initially I used the basil as needed, but the bounty eventually caught up with me, so I made a very large batch of basil pesto, and for the first time ever, I froze it in individual blocks using my ice cube tray. This is probably something you all have been doing for years, and I absolutely should have been, too, but alas I have not. Note: Historically my freezer is the place where things go to die.
There is a recipe below for a straight-up, large-batch basil pesto with notes for making a small batch as well as for adapting the recipe to whatever herbs and nuts you have on hand. I hope it might be handy should you find yourself with an overload of herbs.
Hope your summer is going well, Friends. I feel a bit in the weeds in regard to the blog, but I suppose this is a good thing? I’ve been spending my days with the kids at the town pool or park or with my in-laws or parents, and for the first time, I’ve actually been really enjoying* it. Hope you all are so well.
*I did, however, just sign the kids up for a week of full-day soccer camp because this “fun mom” is running out of steam.
Reminder: Store basil out of the fridge in a tall glass with a little bit of water. Here’s a how-to-make-pesto play-by-play:
Remove tough stems; tender ones are OK:
Gather your ingredients. I have not been using nuts, but absolutely use nuts if you wish.
If you are making a large batch, you’ll likely have to process the pesto in batches.
Add herbs, cheese, garlic, nuts, etc. into food processor:
Purée until everything is combined. Taste, and adjust seasoning as desired with more salt, lemon, oil, etc:
I’ve been using the pesto on sandwiches. Love this one: roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and greens on ciabatta:
Also great tossed with grilled vegetables:
Store pesto in fridge or freezer. Freeze pesto in ice cube trays; then transfer the frozen cubes to a ziplock bag and return to the freezer. Look: I found purpose for my canelé mold I have yet to use—score!
Large or Small Batch Basil Pesto
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4.75 cups
Pesto can be made with many a herb (parsley, chives, tarragon, cilantro) as well as many a vegetable (kale), cheese (pecorino), and/or nut (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts). Because our CSA had gifted us three enormous bundles in two weeks, I made a straight-up basil pesto, omitting the nuts mostly because they’re so darn expensive. If you like the texture and flavor offered by nuts, you can definitely add them here. Quantities are listed in ingredient list.
Pesto freezes beautifully. Freezing in ice cube trays or something similar is handy, because it allows you to remove small portions as needed.
Re kosher salt: I note the brand I use, Diamond Crystal, because saltiness varies among brands. If you use Morton’s kosher salt, for example, you should cut the amount of salt back because Morton’s is saltier than Diamond Crystal.
To make a small batch of pesto, use these quantities:
- 4 cups (85 g) loosely packed basil
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand, see notes)
- 1/2 cup (57 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 cups (320 g) basil
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 to 3.5 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand, see notes)
- 2 cups (215 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts (optional)
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
Combine basil, garlic, lemon, 3 teaspoons of the salt, and the cheese in a food processor. Pulse to combine—you may have to pulse in batches. Add the oil and purée to combine. Taste. Adjust with more salt, lemon or oil to taste. Store in fridge or transfer to ice cube trays and freeze; then transfer to a ziplock bag and store in freezer.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Condiment
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: pesto, basil, large, batch, small, parmesan, garlic, lemon
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
21 Comments on “Large Batch Basil Pesto”
And if you’re making a REALLY large batch, line a 13×9” baking dish with plastic wrap, pour in the pesto, cover with more wrap and freeze. Then pop the block of frozen pesto on a large cutting board and cut into ice-cube-sized squares. Wrap each and keep in a zipper bag in the freezer. Best to pre-cut small pieces of plastic wrap, so you can wrap the cubes of pesto before they start melting.
I also freeze my pesto but in jars with the lid off till frozen. I do use nuts but not pine nuts anymore, usually walnuts. They are cheaper and I like the health benefits and taste of them. Please remember some of us readers are from the other side of the world so yes my basil is growing well when it isn’t over there.
We just made this with our fresh basil. Easy and wonderful.
So happy to hear this, Carol!
I have so much basil in my garden and would love to make a big batch of pesto. I find my pesto always goes brown though when I make in advance so am reluctant to make a large quantity. I have not used lemon juice before – is this the secret? Thank you!
Mine always goes brown after a few days in the fridge, too. But what’s great about making a big batch is that you can freeze it! I froze it in ice cube trays, then transferred the cubes to a plastic bag. Now, when I want a cube, I just grab one, let it that or toss it into a pan to let it melt. It’s so handy!
Just a friendly note – parmesan isn’t vegetarian, so that tag should probs be removed. x
Thanks! Will make a note!
Can you freeze this pesto with the cheese in it or should you leave it out? I keep reading that pesto doesn’t freeze well with cheese in it.
I freeze it with the cheese, and it has been fine for me!
I cut the small recipe in 1/4ths and made one just enough for 4 chicken thighs-was easy and delicious!!!
Amazing! Love this, Harriet 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉
I love this recipe, but the salt is way too much.
Made this today – delish! Thank you!
Great to hear, Mackenzie!
We’ve been freezing basil oil cubes (just basil, olive oil and garlic) for years. I like the flexibility of adding my choice of nuts and cheese when I pull a cube or two out of the freezer. They seem to last longer in the freezer this way.
I’m excited to have your CSA newsletter. Thanks!
So interesting, Leslie! Love this idea. I’ll give it a try… I’ll have mounds of basil on hand to experiment with 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for signing up for the farm share newsletter!
Just made this and it was amazing! Beats my previous pesto recipe by far!!!! I was fortunate to have pine nuts, so I used those. So delicious! Thanks for the great recipe!!!
Great to hear, Kris! Nothing better than basil pesto this time of year. Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Just made this tonight thanks to a thriving basil plant in the garden this year. Your recipes are always my go-tos! I go a little heavier on the lemon juice, a bit lighter on the salt but there’s room for that in this recipe – it’s to taste! Paired it with some roasted garden cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella and pasta with a splash of pasta water and it was to die for. Jarred the rest up to freeze and give to coworkers. Thanks!
So nice to read all of this Nancy! What lucky coworkers you have 🙂 🙂 🙂