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Small Batch Pesto

This basic pesto recipe is made with fresh spinach, garlic, pine nuts, a squeeze of lemon juice, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Healthy and delicious!

a small jar of pesto on a silver tray next to spinach leaves and a half of a lemon.

This easy pesto recipe is one I think you'll be using over and over again. The pesto comes together in minutes and is filled with flavor. This small batch recipe is a scaled down version of the spinach pesto recipe I've used for years. It's so delicious, I could eat it by the spoonful.

What Is Pesto?

Jarred pesto can be purchased in grocery stores but it's so easy to make at home too. Pesto made from scratch is so much more delicious than any store-bought version. Plus, you get to control the ingredient amounts and there are no added preservatives or artificial ingredients.

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Pesto is an uncooked sauce that is often made from fresh basil leaves or fresh spinach. I almost always have spinach in my refrigerator and homemade pesto is a great way to use up any slightly wilted spinach.

Traditionally, pesto is tossed with cooked pasta but is delicious when incorporated into other recipes too. Spread pesto on sandwiches, add it to grilled chicken, use as a salad dressing - use it any chance you can.

ingredients in pesto: olive oil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, spinach, lemon and garlic

Ingredients

See recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.

  • spinach
  • pine nuts
  • garlic
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt

See below for ways to use leftover ingredients.

Can I Use Different Nuts?

Pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto recipes and although they are delicious, these nuts can be expensive. If desired, you can substitute the pine nuts with walnuts, pecans, cashews or almonds.

pine nuts toasting in a frying pan.

How To Toast Nuts

Although you don't have to toast the pine nuts, I urge you to do so. Toasting the nuts deepens their flavor and definitely improves the pesto. Be sure to watch the nuts carefully, they brown easily and can burn quickly.

There are a few different ways to toast pine nuts. Since we only need a small amount for this pesto recipe, I like to toast them in a small skillet.

  1. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Heat oil on medium-low for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the pine nuts and stir frequently until they are golden brown.
  3. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to stop the cooking process and to prevent burning.

How To Make Pesto

  1. Add the ingredients to a food processor or a blender.
  2. Puree until smooth, stopping if needed to scrape down the sides so that all of the ingredients are evenly mixed. If your pesto is too thick, thin it out if you'd like with an extra teaspoon or so of olive oil or use water.
  3. Taste the sauce and add additional salt if needed.
  4. Use immediately or store.

This pesto recipe will yield 1/2 cup.

Ways To Use Pesto

  • Replace pizza sauce: Consider using pesto instead of tomato sauce on homemade pizzas.
  • Spread on a sandwich: Either use as is or mix with a little mayonnaise and spread on french bread, sandwich bread, pita bread or flatbread.
  • Use as a salad dressing: Thin the pesto out a little if you'd like and drizzle over salad greens or chicken salad for a delicious dressing.
  • Enjoy for breakfast: Drizzle a little pesto over scrambled eggs or make a breakfast grilled cheese by layering bread with cheese, cooked eggs, and plenty of pesto.
  • Mix into dips: Stir pesto into softened cream cheese for a tasty dip to use with vegetables or tortilla chips.
  • Toss with vegetables: Use a bit of pesto to garnish your vegetables.
  • Use with meat: Pesto goes very well with grilled steak, pork chops or even shrimp and fish. One of my favorite dishes is pesto chicken.
  • Add to pasta: Toss with your favorite pasta to make a delicious pesto pasta.
pesto chicken on a white plate with a fork filled with chicken.

Ways To Use Leftover Ingredients

If you have any ingredients left over from this basic pesto recipe, you might like to consider using them in any of these single serving recipes:

a jar of pesto with a spoon in the center coming out of the jar.

How To Store Spinach Pesto

Store homemade pesto in a small jar covered with a piece of plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator. It will keep well for up to 1 week. Be sure to stir the pesto before using because the oil will rise to the top.

Can You Freeze Pesto?

Yes, you can freeze spinach pesto. Just spoon some of the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Then, pop out the frozen pesto cubes and transfer them to a freezer safe container or a freezer bag.

Variations

  • You don't have to use pine nuts in this recipe (although I highly recommend it). Feel free to use walnuts, cashews, almonds, or pecans instead.
  • If you want to make basil pesto, use the same amount of fresh basil instead of spinach.
  • You can add fresh kale, parsley, and cilantro to this recipe if you'd like. Just use the recommended amount of 2 cups total.

I use a Vitamix blender when I make pesto. Use either a blender or a food processor for best results.

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RELATED: Single Serving Comfort Food Recipes

pesto in a small jar next to a half of a lemon.

Small Batch Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer/Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: dip, sauce, spinach
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 201kcal
Author: Joanie Zisk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula or spoon as necessary.
  • Taste and add additional salt to taste.
  • Use immediately or transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator covered for up to 1 week.

Notes

If you prefer a thinner consistency, add an extra teaspoon of olive oil to the pesto.

How To Toast Pine Nuts

Although you don’t have to toast the pine nuts, I urge you to do so. Toasting pine nuts deepens their flavor and definitely improves the pesto. Be sure to watch the nuts carefully, they brown easily and can burn quickly.
There are a few different ways to toast pine nuts. Since we only need a small amount for this pesto recipe, I like to toast them in a small skillet.
  1. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Heat oil on medium-low for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the pine nuts and stir frequently until they are golden brown.
  3. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to stop the cooking process and to prevent burning.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 243mg | Potassium: 134mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 54IU | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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