Classic Pesto Sauce Recipe

Pesto is not just for pasta and pizza! This common sauce is incredibly versatile and pairs well with salmon, chicken, shrimp, and veggie based dishes. Traditional pesto uses a combination base of pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil - providing a deep salty and somewhat umami flavor base. It's easy to make and wont disappoint!

Trifecta Classic Pesto Sauce-1How to Make a Classic Pesto Sauce

What makes this sauce 'classic' is the use of the pine nut and parmesan combination. Originally, pestos were made with a mortar and pestle, grinding the slightly toasted nuts with garlic and some coarse salt first, while slowly adding oil. 

Though it would be great to have the time to create this sauce as the Italians did years ago, we've adjusted this recipe method of preparation to help you create a faster yet delicious pesto sauce.

This recipe makes a big batch of pesto - about 40 servings of 1 Tablespoon servings, perfect for your meal prep! Feel free to cut this in half if needed or package it up and give it to loved ones for a tasty treat. 


Kitchen Needs:

  • Storage 
  • Baking tray
  • Spatula
  • Food processor

Want a dairy free version of this sauce? Make a simple vegan pesto by replacing the pine nuts and parm with lightly toasted pistachios!

Step One: Roasting the Pine Nuts, Wash and Pick Basil, and Gather all Other Ingredients

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line a baking sheet pans with aluminum foil to save time on clean up and roast pine nuts for 3-5 minutes until pine nuts are golden brown. Keep a close eye as these go from slightly toasted to burnt in no time. Remove from oven and let cool down.

Meanwhile pick, wash, rinse, and dry your basil leaves. Place leaves into a bowl and keep aside until needed. 

Culinary tip: If you want to make your basil super bright green, grab a metal bowl and fill with ice and water. Submerge the leaves for 3-5 minutes.
The ice water will 'shock' and brighten the chlorophyll  naturally. This will make your pesto sauce bright in color.

Grate parmesan cheese or measure if already grated and keep aside. Measure all other ingredients and have ready at hand to blend the sauce.

Step Two: Blend Your Ingredients

In a food processor (easiest tool but if you don't have one, feel free to use a high quality blender like a Vitamix - or also a NutriBullet) add pine nuts, a small pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of the measured olive oil, garlic, and the parmesan cheese.

Pulse food processor until a paste is formed, scraping sides as needed. If the nuts are not forming into a paste, add another tablespoon of olive oil. 

Do not add lemon juice yet.

Once paste is formed, add the basil into the food processor. Pulse once again until the basil is fully incorporated, scraping the sides as needed. 

Once the basil is one in the paste, add the lemon juice, and season with salt and black pepper if needed. The saltiness of the parmesan sometimes is enough and no further addition of salt is needed.

Transfer to a bowl, scraping all the sides of the food processor bowl.

Step Three: Fold in Remaining Oil

The reason why the oil is not added into the food processor is because heat is created while the paste is being formed which causes the oil to oxidize, creating off notes and flavors. In order to avoid this, the oil is folded into the basil-paste in a separate bowl.

"Folding" is a culinary term that means to carefully mix two mixtures of different thickness and weight, into one unified mix. 

Mix in the oil into the basil paste with a rubber spatula, by slowly adding the oil in batches and mixing it into the paste. Repeat until all the oil is folded in. 

Trifecta Classic Pesto Sauce_Ingredients

Storing and Shelf Life

Store this sauce in the fridge, up to a week for maximal freshness and for the brightest green color. The sauce will withhold a longer shelf life under refrigeration, however the chlorophyll may start turning dull brown after a week. Flavor will stay consistent as long as its refrigerated.

Serve this With

Pesto and chicken in a sandwich form are excellent, or like I said before, you can pair it with salmon, flavor your favorite vegetables with it, or even make a pesto quinoa - a vegan dish widely used throughout Peru (fun fact).

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Want more tasty recipes like this one? Check out the full collection of 16 keto sauces!

Classic Pesto Sauce Recipe


5 min


10 min




Pesto is an evergreen sauce and meal prep staple. It can be paired with so many different proteins and dishes - use it to flavor your starches (if you're not on keto) and your favorite vegetables. The functionality and flavor profile of this sauce is nothing short of spectacular!


  • 2 cups fresh basil, leaves picked
  • ⅓ cup pinenuts, roasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. In a preheated oven at 375F, slightly toast pinenuts to a golden brown color for about 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the time. Remove from the oven and let it slightly cool.

  2. In a food processor combine pine nuts, garlic, parm cheese, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse to process until a paste is formed.

  3. Add a small amount of olive if needed to form the paste but do not add the oil in the food processor.

  4. Add the basil to the paste and process till fully incorporated.

  5. Transfer basil-pinenut paste to a bowl and slowly fold in the oil by mixing in the pesto and the oil with a rubber spatula. Repeat the process until all the oil is folded in.

  6. Enjoy!


  • The reason the oil is folded and not mixed in the food processor is that the heat of the processor can make the olive oil bitter.


Servings: 40 - 2 Tbsp | Calories Per Serving: 200

  • Total Fat 18g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 40mg
  • Total Carbohydrates 2g
  • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 6g
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C