Homegrown basil pesto

Homegrown basil pesto

Once you’ve tasted the flavour of homegrown basil pesto, you’ll never buy the bland, mass-produced supermarket stuff again.

Sweet basil is one of the few Mediterranean-style herbs that grow well in the tropics and using it to make traditional Italian pesto is a fantastic way to enjoy its spicy flavour.

Basil is one herb you just have to grow in your garden.

In Northern Australia, very few European herbs can be grown in the ground. Most only just manage to survive in a pot through the cooler months.

Basil is an exception.

It grows vigorously and as long as you can keep the grasshoppers and grubs away from it, bountiful crops are pretty much guaranteed . . .


About 6 weeks ago I planted two young sweet basil bushes in my garden. and despite using their leaves regularly in pasta sauces and the like, they have still grown at a phenomenal rate. So much so, that the recent rains made them so top-heavy, some of the main branches snapped off.

Despite using their leaves regularly in pasta sauces and the like, they’ve still grown at a phenomenal rate. So much so, that the recent rains made them that top-heavy some of the main branches snapped off.

I hate seeing things go to waste and I couldn’t stand the idea of all this lovely basil not being used. So I ducked out into the garden between the showers and grabbed as much as I could, as well as a fresh lemon.

Looking at the pile of leaves on my kitchen bench, there was only one logical way to use them up.

Basil pesto.

Pesto, which means to pound or crush in Italian, is to flavour many dishes. It can be used on meats and vegetables, in sauces and, my favourite, in pasta.

I’ll give you the recipe I use to make pesto below, and then give you another one showing how you can use it to make a deliciously simple pasta dish with tonnes of flavour.

Homegrown basil pesto


3 handfuls fresh sweet basil leaves

1/2 clove garlic

1 handful pine nuts

1 handful grated parmesan cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

A good pinch of sea salt


The measurements I have given above are just a guide. When I make pesto, I never measure anything. So to start off, roughly chop your basil leaves and then throw them into a mortar, add a pinch of salt, and begin turning them into a paste with the pestle.

You can use a food processor instead if you want, but I prefer to do it the traditional way as it gives a more rustic and authentic result with subtle differences in texture.

The choice is yours.

As you as working your way through the basil, slice up half a garlic clove and throw that in as well as you smash it all to a thick, dark green paste. Next, add the pine nuts and continue pounding and grinding.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil and half the parmesan cheese. Keep pounding and mixing it together until all ingredients are broken down.

Once you are happy with it, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and the rest of the parmesan.

Now stir in more olive oil until everything is combined and takes on a sauce-like consistency (use the picture of mine at the top of the post as a reference).

Taste it and make sure all the flavours are detectable. The aniseed of the basil, the creaminess of the pine nuts, the sharpness of the parmesan, a hint of lemon and the slight warmth of the garlic.

Once you are happy, use it to add a wonderful, fresh herby flavour to virtually any dish.

Here is something you might like to try.

Tomato, rocket, and pesto linguine

Tomato, rocket and pesto linguine


500 gram packet of linguine

200 grams chopped semi-dried tomatoes

A good handful of chopped baby rocket leaves

1 cup freshly made homegrown basil pesto

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

extra virgin olive oil


Bring 3.5 litres of salted water to the boil in a large saucepan.

Add linguine and cook on a rolling boil for 15 minutes or until pasta is just cooked through. Drain pasta, then add the pesto and a drizzle of olive oil, and mix.

Then add rocket and semi-dried tomatoes and mix.

To finish, sprinkle parmesan over the top and serve.

So there you have it: Homegrown basil pesto

I’d love to hear what think of this recipe.

If you give it a go, please share your results with us in the comments section below.


Don’t have your own mortar and pestle?

Then take a look at this Jamie Oliver Granite Mortar and Pestle available through eBay.

Jaime Oliver Granite mortar and pestle


It’s six-inch diameter and unpolished finish is perfect for making pesto, dressings, crushing herbs, and grinding spices. And it’s built to last with solid walls and a thick base, while still looking stylish and modern.

To find out more about this product and get the latest price from eBay click here.



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  1. saltygardener

    I love homemade pesto but haven’t made it ages, thanks for the reminder! I couldn’t find / afford pine nuts in my student days so used cashews instead and its delicious. Also made some with macadamias when we were in Qld, very decadent!


  2. Amanda H

    I love making basil pesto.. but you could say I cheat! I make it in my Thermomix and it comes out delicious also. I have a pasta maker and once you try homemade pasta, you may never buy the packet stuff again! Thanks for sharing.. hubby has been wanting to plant basil for a while now.. we just have to “do it!” :))


    • justin@growitcatchitmakeit

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, a lot if people make it in food processors but I just love the rustic feel and texture you get using a mortar and pestle. Apparently bashing basil to a pulp releases the oils more than slicing it with whizzing, metal blades. Either way it’s a wonderful, tasty thing that is so versatile. I just love the stuff.
      Definitely have a go at growing it. Picking it fresh brings a whole new layer of flavour. Grab some seedlings this week and start growing your own; you’ll love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amanda H

        Will definitely try it with the mortar and pestle! I didn’t know about that method until I read your article, so will definitely try that one too.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. John

    Came across your blog via Travelosio and enjoying reading some of your blogs on food. The pesto one hit home as I was in the supermarket about to buy some and then I thought no. Problem is we live in England, Hove and so will have to buy all the ingredients but I am going to give it a go this week and see how it turns out. Thanks for the idea.


    • justin@growitcatchitmakeit

      I guarantee making it yourself is worth the effort. Fresh ingredients are the key so try and source the basil locally from a market, or a friend’s back yard, or maybe you grow it yourself. Avoid the limp stuff they sell in supermarkets if you can. Good luck with it and let me know how you go.


  4. Pingback: I’m baaack! | All you can eat

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