Basil-Sage Pesto

pesto1I love me a good basil pesto.  It is one of those recipes in which the sum is so much greater than the parts, as if somehow basil becomes that much more basily in the presence of oil, garlic and spices.   It’s also one of those handy condiments that are endlessly versatile, handling a simple crostini or a gourmet pizza with equal ease.  To top it all off, it freezes really well and nothing brings back summer in February like a freshly-thawed dollop of herb pesto; it’s like distilled sunshine.

Some days, however, I want to kick it up a notch (to borrow a phrase); and some days, I realize after I’ve already thrown everything in the food processor that I have lots and lots of garlic & pine nuts and not so many basil leaves…hence, basil-sage pesto was born.  This was one of those happy accidents – experiments like this don’t always work out and sometimes you just end up with a muddled mess of a recipe that more often than not ends up on the compost pile.  But this time – the sage and lemon brightens up the basil and gives the pesto a zing not present in a more traditional basil pesto.  The color is a softer, gentler green but the flavor is stand-up-and-be-noticed good: this one will go into my permanent rotation. 

Adapted from Basil Pesto in The New Basics by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins


Basil-Sage Pesto


  • 1 and 1/2 cup basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1/2 cup sage leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesean or other hard cheese (such as Sprout Creek’s Barat or Ouray), optional


  1. Place basil, sage, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and pine nuts into the bowl of a small food processor.  Starting with 1/4 cup, drizzle olive oil through the feed tube, with the motor running, until the pesto becomes a uniform paste.  Slowly add more oil if the greens do not seem to chop up enough or if the texture is too chunky for your liking. 
  2. Stop the processor and taste; adjust salt, pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.  Process for another 30-60 seconds to blend. 
  3. If storing in the refrigerator or freezer, do not add cheese (add cheese, if desired, just before serving).  Mix in grated parmesean with a spatula and serve with crostini, fresh crusty bread, dolloped onto soup or potatoes, or on pizza.

Yields about 1 cup pesto.


  1. For straight basil pesto, use 2 cups fresh basil leaves and eliminate the sage. 
  2. You can eliminate the pine nuts, however, I find that even with the nuts this pesto keeps well in the freezer for up to 1 year.  Adding cheese diminishes the storage time, which I why I add it at serving time.


Refrigerated for 2 to 3 days; frozen for up to 1 year.




  1. spamwise

    I love pesto.

    After the first couple of times, then you begin to branch out into other possibilities: arugula (lovely especially with “wild” arugula, not so much the ones you see in supermarkets), ramps and garlic scapes, to name three different versions.

    It’s really a seasonal thing limited by what’s available from your garden or farmer’s market.

  2. Pingback: Basil Sage Pesto - Recipe Hearth

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