Pesto Genovese, or classic basil pesto, is naturally gluten free and bursting with delicious fresh summer flavor. It includes only five ingredients and comes together quickly to enjoy for an easy summer dinner or to throw together for company.
Does anything smell like summer more than the smell of fresh pesto Genovese? Oh, mama! I look forward to the bounty of basil growing in the garden so I can have pesto on repeat all summer. You can purchase jarred pesto year-round in the grocery stores, but nothing compares to homemade.
Also, at first glance, all of the ingredients in pesto sauce are gluten free, but it’s never a guarantee t due to cross-contamination along with other additives and preservatives found in store-bought. So, if you want to enjoy delicious pesto genovese, make it homemade.
Reasons you’ll love this basil pesto recipe
- Super easy to make. You only need five ingredients and 10 minutes to complete this pesto recipe.
- Delicious. It’s so good you’ll want to eat it with a spoon! Toasting the pine nuts gives the pesto an extra nutty flavor.
- Versatile. You can enjoy this pesto Genovese on your favorite gluten free pasta, pizza, on top of chicken or shrimp – it goes with everything!
The key to gluten free pesto is ensuring that all of the ingredients you use are gluten free.
- Fresh basil leaves. If you’re not using fresh basil from the garden, head to your local farmer’s market to get the freshest basil. If you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, then try your local wholesale store. I get big containers of fresh basil for under $4. Or you can find fresh basil in the grocery store’s produce section.
- Fresh garlic. I use about one teaspoon of chopped garlic cloves when making pesto, which is about two medium-sized cloves. In my experience, this provides the perfect amount of garlic flavor without it becoming overwhelming. But you can add more or less garlic, depending on your taste.
- Pine nuts. Pine nuts are the ingredient to watch out for most or when looking for hidden gluten due to cross-contamination. Read the labels and try to purchase pine nuts (and other ingredients) that are labeled gluten free. I find this at Wegmans. Keep in mind that pine nuts are on the pricey side, so if you don’t use all of them, I recommend freezing the leftover pine nuts, so they don’t go rancid.
- Extra virgin olive oil. A high-quality extra virgin olive oil will make all of the difference when making a homemade pesto recipe. I recommend purchasing extra virgin olive oil that’s cold-pressed in a dark glass bottle and has a best-by date.
- Parmesan cheese or parmigiano reggiano. For the best flavor, I strongly recommend shredding the parmesan cheese fresh. You can purchase high-quality chunks of parmesan cheese at an affordable price from BJ’s wholesale and other wholesale stores. Do not use store-bought shredded cheese in pesto. I love parmesan cheese, but you can also use pecorino romano cheese. Other Italian cheeses you can use are grana padano or pecorino fiore sardo.
How to Make Pesto Genovese
Start by toasting the pine nuts. This step is optional, and many pesto recipes don’t call for toasting the nuts, but it brings out the flavor in the pine nuts, which makes for a tastier homemade pesto recipe. It only takes about 4-5 minutes, so I recommend toasting the pine nuts if you have time.
To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry pan. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, tossing once, until golden and fragrant. You don’t want the nuts to burn because they will taste bitter. Remove the pine nuts from the pan and set them aside.
Place the basil leaves and garlic into the food processor and turn it on.
While the food processor is on, slowly pour half the olive oil until the basil is finely chopped. If your food processor has a pulse function, hit the pulse button until the basil and garlic come together and form a sauce.
Turn the food processor off and add the pine nuts. Put the lid back on, turn on the food processor, pour in the rest of the olive oil, and process until smooth.
Add the parmesan cheese.
Process until the cheese is finely chopped and incorporated into the pesto. You want there to be pieces of cheese.
Scrape the pesto into a jar or bowl and taste for salt. Be careful removing the pesto because the blades are sharp. I add about ¼ teaspoon of salt to combine all the flavors. Of course, salt to taste.
- Pesto sauce is easy to adapt to taste. You can add more cheese or garlic for extra flavor. Or stream in another layer of olive oil for a milder flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Pine nuts are in authentic pesto alla genovese but you can swap in walnuts.
- Remove the basil leaves from the stems. Using the stems will create a fibrous pesto.
- Make sure the basil leaves are clean before making the pesto but dried off completely before adding the other ingredients.
- You can also use a blender to make pesto. Or, if you want to go old school and make pesto the traditional way, use a marble mortar and wooden pestle. Pesto means to crush! So, all you need to do is crush the ingredients together.
Italian basil pesto is delicious on just about anything. Here are our favorites.
- Pasta. We love mixing in large bowl with our favorite gluten free pasta; this pesto pasta salad is a favorite.
- Meat. Spread pesto on grilled chicken or shrimp. Or mix with shredded chicken and pasta for a delicious quick dinner.
- Sandwiches. Swap pesto for mayo on Caprese sandwiches or a turkey wrap. Yum!
- Pizza. Drizzle for a burst of flavor on any pizza recipe; it’s perfect on white pizza!
- Vegetables. Mix into these Italian roasted vegetables or Italian roasted potatoes, and everyone will beg for more. Or toss with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for delicious twist on a caprese salad. It’s even delicious with green beans!
- Dip for vegetables or your favorite gluten free bread.
Frequently asked questions
Pesto originated in Genoa, the first city of Liguria, Italy. It’s called pesto Genovese to pay homage to where it was first created.
No, you can not. Pesto Genovese needs fresh basil to make a great-tasting pesto.
Yes, you can store the pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze pesto to use at a later date.
Pesto is higher in fat and calories because of the cheese, nuts, and olive oil. However, these fats are good. Pesto also includes antioxidants, protein, iron, calcium, and many other vitamins. So in moderation, you can include pesto in a healthy, well-balanced diet. You can also reduce the amount of olive oil, pine nuts, and cheese to create a lower-fat pesto recipe.
Pesto Genovese (Gluten Free)
- Food processor
- mason storage jars 16 ounce jars work great.
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic about 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
- Start by toasting the pine nuts. To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry pan. Cook over medium heat for 4-5
- Place the basil leaves and garlic into the food processor and turn it on.
- While the food processor is on, slowly pour half the olive oil until the basil is finely chopped. If your food processor has a pulse function, hit the pulse button until the basil and garlic come together and start forming a sauce.
- Turn the food processor off and add the pine nuts. Turn on the food processor, pour in the rest of the olive oil, and process until smooth. You'll notice the pesto start to get creamy and thick.
- Add the parmesan cheese. Process until the cheese is finely chopped and incorporated into the pesto. You want there to be pieces of cheese.
- Scrape the pesto into a jar or bowl and taste for salt. I add about ¼ teaspoon of salt to combine all the flavors. Of course, salt to taste.
Did You Make This Recipe?
If you made this delicious pesto genovese (gluten free) I’d love for you to rate it and leave a comment. Then, continue the gluten free conversation and delicious recipe sharing over in our Gluten Free Italian Recipes Facebook Group. Join us now!