Basil pesto – one that will stay bright green!

Basil pesto – one that will stay bright green

Fresh, homemade pesto is fantastic. But it has a weakness.

Basil tends to oxidize when heated up or left exposed to air, which means that your lovely, bright-green sauce will often turn brown before you get to serve it – still delicious, but not ideal. So here’s a classic basil sauce that won’t turn brown the minute you toss it with hot pasta! The trick: blanching the basil before making the pesto.

The perfect basil pesto – all of the flavor, none of the funky brown color!

You may think that blanching the basil will take away some of its spunk, but be assured that it doesn’t. Indeed, the technique won’t take an ounce of flavor out of the aromatic leaves.

This extra step only adds a few minutes to the preparation of your pesto, but it’ll give you a bright green sauce that will make all your favorite pesto dishes look as good as they taste.

More pesto recipes

Arugula pesto
Kale pesto
Ramp pesto
Mint-walnut pesto

Basil pesto 


1 cup

Prep time

30 minutes


  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt for blanching

  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (4 oz) (115 g) – large stems removed (3 cups lightly packed leaves)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan

  • 1 large garlic clove – skinned

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a fast boil. Add the salt and basil leaves and blanch for 15 seconds only. Immediately remove the leaves from the boiling water and place in the ice water bath. Once cooled (this only takes a few seconds), drain. Squeeze the leaves to remove all excess water and lay them on a paper towel.
  • Using scissors, cut the basil in 1″ pieces. Place the basil and balance of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about 1 to 2 minutes until it forms a creamy paste, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. Transfer to a container. Use right away, refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

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  1. This works! Bright green, beautiful, delicious pesto! Thank you!!! Why isn’t this common knowledge? Was so tired of brown pesto.

  2. Cynthia lemire

    Do u freeze pesto without the cheese . Adding cheese after defrosted

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Hi Cynthia, I freeze my pesto with the cheese in it. I find that it makes no difference to do so without the cheese. Happy pesto making!



  4. I made your recipe last summer and so thrilled how vibrant the pesto was.
    I have a question. Can I store any left over basil in the fridge for a few days and will it still retain its vibrant colour. Also can I freeze the basil and will it still be so bright and fresh.
    Thank you in advance

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Hello Diana! I am delighted you enjoy this pesto recipe – ’tis the season! As mentioned in Step 2 of the recipe, you can refrigerate the pesto for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 1 month. Yes, it will keep its bright color and delicious flavor. Enjoy!

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  6. I just want to thank you for this recipe. The leftover pesto and pasta this afternoon is just as vibrant as it was yesterday. Finally no more brown pesto.

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      I am delighted to hear, Diana! I hope you enjoy making pesto many more times this summer!

  7. I have just discovered your amazing site whilst searching pizza dough recipes, and then started perusing. I love this article. Truth be told, Jacques Pepin told me this method many years ago during an interview for his book with Julia Child, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a great way to preserve and use up all of that basil from the garden! Well done.

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Megan! I am delighted you’re enjoying this site… and tickled that you know Jacques Pepin. What a treasure he is. It seems that it’s time to make pesto!

  8. So bright green and awesome! Thanks for the tip, Viviane.

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  14. Viviane! Another amazing recipe! I did not have pine nuts so substituted walnuts. Tastes great and looks good – even the next day! Thank-you for your creative inspirations! Your videos, photos, and recipes in Food & Style Club are divine! Keep them coming!

    • Niko! Thank you so much for your comment and kind words. I am over the moon that you loved this pesto and that you’re enjoying the Club. You have no idea how much this means to me… Thank you again and happy cooking!

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  16. What a great idea! I’m going to have to try this because I get so frustrated to spend some much time making pesto only to have it turn brown before it even get to the table. Thanks Viviane!

  17. Basil pesto must be bright green! Thank you for sharing your tips and recipes with your readers!

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  19. LOVE LOVE LOVE your website Viviane! And this tip on getting your pesto bright green is awesome, can’t wait to try this out!

    • Diane, Thank you so much for your kind words and from dropping by! I must say I can’t wait for you to try this pesto either… You’ll have to let me know how you liked it. Cheers!

  20. Suzette Barnett

    Great tip, I’m going to try this! Thanks for sharing.

  21. The recent adjustment I made to my basil pesto recipe is to pound the hell out of it in a pestle and mortar instead of using a whizzer. It comes out much darker in colour (which I think looks very nice) and tastes, to my mind, nicer. You also end up with little bits of broken leaves throughout the pasta which make it look a bit more ‘authentic’ (for want of a better word!).

    It’s quite amazing how such a simple thing can be made in so many different ways. Thanks for your idea.

    • Oliver, this is the way pesto has always been made… before “whizzers” were invented! You might want to try your method with the blanched basil, as I suggest here. Cheers!

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