Almond pesto with fresh basil is the perfect, quick sauce for weeknight dinners. Loads of basil, garlic, lemon and parmesan cheese. Use almonds instead of pine nuts for a cost effective alternative.
Gardening season is my favorite time of year and one thing I always look forward to is fresh, straight from the garden basil! When grown properly you can have an abundance of basil all summer long.
This pesto sauce is a summer staple and an easy recipe to prepare. Spread it over fish or chicken breasts, use as a quick pasta sauce, or as a delicious spread. Personally, I just dip veggies and crackers straight into it or toss it with some cherry tomatoes.
The best part is, make enough and it can easily be frozen to use during the winter months.
It takes less time than you would think and tastes far better than any grocery store pesto you can buy.
While traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, they are typically very expensive. You can still harness the same great flavors of basil, garlic, parmesan and oil by using almonds instead of pine nuts.
Almonds are a more affordable option, and still gives you a great sauce that you can add to your favorite pasta recipes.
This is my favorite way to use fresh basil and with just a handful of simple ingredients, you can have a pesto sauce that you will make over and over again.
If you love homemade sauces check out my other sauce recipes.
When selecting ingredients, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
- Use lemons, garlic cloves, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. That will give you the best flavors.
- When making pesto, the type of oil is also important. Select a good olive oil that is slightly better than your everyday cooking oil.
- Use the freshest basil you can find. Basil plants at local nurseries, feed stores, or markets can sometimes be cheaper than at your grocery store. Consider checking out these locations first to get a good deal on basil. If you care for the plant you'll have an endless supply of fresh basil!
Here is what you will need to make this pesto:
- Basil Leaves
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Garlic Cloves
- Lemon Juice
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Parmesan Cheese
*Full quantities in the recipe card
Pro tip: While not necessary, it is always recommended that you toast almonds any time they are used for sauces, baking or cooking. This extra step brings out the nutty flavor and really enhances whatever you add them to.
In a small pan over medium heat, toss the almonds until they start to turn dark brown and release a nutty smell. This only takes a couple of minutes.
Using a food processor or high-power blender toss in the almonds.
Add in basil, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper and run until pureed and smooth.
If needed, scrape the sides and bottom incorporating the pieces of almonds and basil that didn't puree.
Add in parmesan cheese and run again until fully incorporated. Add more oil or a little bit of water if it is too thick. Just add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
Use it right away as a pasta sauce or save it in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
How to Cook with Pesto
This sauce is perfect for quick weeknight dinners as it can be directly added to just about any pasta dish.
The key to cooking with fresh basil is to only add it to the final steps of a dish. Basil should never be cooked in high heats for extended times. To get the most flavor from your basil, add at the very end.
Pesto is no different. It should be added once everything is cooked and only slightly warmed up.
Just cook the pasta until al dente and reserve a little of the pasta water. When ready to add the pesto, mix with some pasta water to help thin it out, and toss the pasta to evenly coat.
To make it even creamier consider adding some heavy cream or cream cheese. This will make for an extra creamy pesto sauce. And don't be afraid to add some additional parmesan cheese to the final dish.
If you love salmon, this baked pesto salmon is the perfect quick weeknight dinner. And a great way use fresh pesto.
Spicy: Add some red pepper flakes to give it a little extra kick.
Traditional Pesto: Use pine nuts instead of almonds for a more traditional pesto.
Vegan: A Toasted Pine nut has a vegan almond pesto that uses kale and nutritional yeast in place of the parmesan.
Cheese: Pecorino romano cheese can be substituted for the parmesan.
Parsley: You can also use parsley to make fresh pesto. It will be a very different taste, but is a great way to use your fresh parsley.
Arugula: Arugula or spinach could be used in place of the basil.
Food Processor: A food processor is one of the easiest ways to make pesto. Just add all the ingredients and run until smooth.
Blender: A high power blender like a Blendtec can also be used. A high power version will work better because it will be a lot more efficient creaming the almonds.
Mason Jar: Mason jars are great for storing homemade pesto both in the fridge or the freezer. Just allow about 1" of head space to account for expansion if you freeze it.
This pesto will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up 4-5 days.
Pesto also freezes really well and there are a couple of different ways to do it. It can be frozen in an ice cube tray or small mason jars. Leave out the parmesan cheese if freezing, then and add it back in during the cooking process.
While it can be frozen with the cheese, the texture might be slightly different once thawed.
Having frozen pesto on hand is perfect for quick dinners on busy weeknights or a last-minute appetizer or side dish idea. Just take it out the day before you want to use it and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator.
Other Sauces Recipes:
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Almond Pesto with Fresh Basil
- ⅓ Cup Almonds toasted
- 2 Cups Basil Leaves Packed
- ⅓ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Garlic Cloves Smashed and paper removed
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Pinch Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice Optional
- ½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
- In a small pan, over medium heat, toss the almonds until they start to turn dark brown and release a nutty smell. This only takes a couple of minutes.
- Using a food processor or high-power blender toss in the toasted almonds.
- Add in basil, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper and run until pureed and smooth.
- If needed, scrape the sides and bottom incorporating the pieces of almonds and basil that didn't puree.
- Add in parmesan cheese and run again until fully incorporated.
- Add a little bit of water if it is too thick. Just add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Use it right away or save it in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
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