Lightened Up Basil Pesto

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Everyone and their mother has a recipe for homemade Pesto. It really isn’t that hard to make, but like most simple dishes with a few components, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients. This version keeps it traditional while  lightening it up. Most Pesto’s are 4 Points Plus for 2 tablespoons and this one is only 3 Points Plus. I am proud that I was able to shave an entire Point off the serving without sacrificing any flavor.

I should start by telling you that traditional Basil Pesto {with linguini or fusilli and chicken} is one of my husband’s all-time favorite dishes. Me, I prefer a dairy-free pesto and am much more flexible about the herbs and nuts. I tend to lean towards things like this or this.

But, this dish was all about my husband. His birthday was this weekend and I wanted to make him one of his favorites. I started out by growing my own basil (you clearly do not have to do this– lol!). It wasn’t as easy as just throwing some seeds in a pot, since we have some serious shade cover out front (the only spot with direct sun). Overall,  the basil did well and I was able to harvest enough to make two cups of this Pesto. To the basil, I added in top quality organic pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese with just a touch of salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

If you follow my Facebook page, you know I posted about a week ago and asked if I should join Instagram – well I did and I am loving it {username: everydaymaven}. Anyway, I posted a picture of our dinner using this Lightened Up Basil Pesto on there and when my husband saw it, he said he was sad because it was over and there was no more. Little does he know, I have two jars in the freezer and can make this for him at a whim. I should probably tell him so I can secure more back rubs and some good favor.

Birthday Dinner: Jovial Whole Grain Einkorn Linguini with
Summer Tomatoes, Free Range Chicken and Lightened Up Basil Pesto.
On the Side: Green Beans cooked with garlic tossed with 2 tablespoons Pesto
and topped with 1 tablespoon toasted Pine Nuts and 1 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese.


  • I usually store homemade pesto in small mason jars. Think of this like Guacamole – the less air, the better. Fill the jar or container to the very top, immediately cover and refrigerate or freeze for later. When you use some, use a piece of wax paper to press down on the top and limit air exposure.
  • Toast the pine nuts by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the pine nuts in one even layer and cook 4 to 5 minutes, turning and tossing frequently.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Lightened Up Basil Pesto
3 Points Plus Per Serving -- Individual Serving is 2 Tablespoons -- Recipe Makes 8 Servings
Serves: 8
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (see NOTES)
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in bowl of food processor.
  2. Process for about a minute, leave processor running and slowly drizzle in olive oil until well combined.
  3. See notes for storage ideas.


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  1. says

    I love pesto. I vote for cheese in mine – I don’t make it that often, and a little goes a long way, so you’re not really ingesting that much fat. And I freeze it all the time! So nice to have some on hand. Great top picture – taking pesto photos isn’t easy. Good stuff – thanks.
    kitchenriffs recently posted..The Last Word CocktailMy Profile

    • EverydayMaven says

      I am with you – I would love to have a case of mason jars in my freezer filled with summer pesto for those dreary, dark winter days!

  2. Eha says

    Shall try these proportions as soon as basil grows [hmpph: well, ’tis just planted :) !] Have no problems with growing most herbs each year, and many overwinter well even in the Southern Highlands of NSW, but basil either decides to smile and grow all over, or decide I am not a good enough gardener by the literal country mile :) !

    • EverydayMaven says

      I have heard that Basil can be finicky! I have my fingers crossed that you will have an abundant harvest when the time comes!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thank you Norma! It was pretty exciting. I wish I could say the same for my other plants but the herbs did do great for the most part.

  3. says

    I am like you, I eliminate the cheese, maybe adding some lemon juice or zest to give it an extra perk, or maybe some nutritional yeast flakes for a bit of cheesiness. I never can taste the cheese in it anyway! Homemade pesto is a thing of beauty and versatility. Once someone makes their own, and realises how easy it is and that you can freeze it, the jarred stuff just can’t cut it, can it? Great recipe and super Instagram image.
    kellie@foodtoglow recently posted..Baked Marinara-stuffed Arancini (Risotto Balls) – low-fat, lemony and deliciousMy Profile

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