Easy 3-Ingredient Basil Sauce

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This rustic basil sauce is made with just 3 simple ingredients and comes together quickly in your food processor. 

Fresh basil is the only herb that I ever grew successfully. This was years ago when we owned 2 acres in the middle of CA. Don’t be too impressed. Lots of areas of CA are not the fancy beachfront oasis that you see in the movies. It was mostly 2 acres of weeds, flat, and hot. But, I loved that house. And I loved, loved, LOVED the garden that hubs carved out for me.

I learned gardening in the wake of my first miscarriage. It was January, a typical planting time for many vegetables during that season. And as I walked through the emotional turmoil of losing a baby, I learned to garden. I distinctly remember digging in a misty rain angry at God and the world.

And yet, He took that pain and taught me a lot. One of the not-so-deep things I learned during that time was how to grow fruits and vegetables.

It’s been years since I’ve had a backyard garden. And that is the one thing I pine for. Yes, I know we could do containers. (Tried it twice and failed, though.) I know we could plant in small spaces. But, that is a lot of work and, for this season of life,  it doesn’t sound easy. Maybe I’m getting lazy in my old age?

So, I am quite contented, happy, actually to pick up a box of organic produce once a week from Abundant Harvest Organics. I don’t get to “choose”, of course, like I would if I was doing the planting myself, but it’s proving to be a fun adventure.

One thing that we have had in abundance so far is basil. Now, I’ve used fresh basil a lot in the past, but it was always in my garden where I could pick it fresh whenever I wanted it. Buying it in little plastic boxes at the store has never been cost effective, so I’ve never stored basil.

When we started getting this large bouquets of basil in our produce boxes, I thought I could store it like I store cilantro. Major fail. It turned black. Google and I had a meeting and I learned that basil is very sensitive to cold, so it should be stored in a glass of water on the counter. Again, major fail. It got very wilty. So, until I find a sure-fire storage method for basil, I’m just dealing with it right away.

Most of you would say, “Make pesto.” And I hear you. I love pesto, and it freezes well, making it a perfect fit. It also takes a lot of nuts and cheese. My youngest daughter is allergic to nuts so that poses a little problem. Yes, I could still make it. But, I like to be able to relax about food. If there’s something she can’t eat, I don’t really want it around.

At first I turned to pistou. It’s a French version of pesto, typically similar ingredients, without the nuts. But, that involves grating cheese. And sometimes I’m just too lazy to bust out the parm and the microplane.

fresh basil for basil sauce

What ingredients do you need to make this easy basil sauce?

So, I’ve discovered this, easy as pie, basil sauce. It’s basically

  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • garlic

It blends together well in the food processor. The olive oil works to protect the beautiful green of the herb. And the garlic gives it a little punch.

What do I serve this basil sauce with? 

Use it as you would pesto: to sauce pasta and pasta salads like this pesto pasta salad, on pizzas, drizzled over soup, or in appetizers like a pesto bruschetta. I’ve even mixed it into salad dressings to add a little extra flavor.

This sauce is a tasty way to make use of an abundance of basil — and still be a little lazy.

0 from 0 votes
Rustic Basil Sauce
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
0 mins
Total Time
5 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: basil sauce
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 large bunch basil stems removed, rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or mor
  1. In a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade, place the basil leaves and garlic cloves. Pulse until both are coarsely chopped. Add enough olive oil until your desired sauce consistency is achieved.
  2. To store: Cover the surface of the sauce with a thin layer of oil oil. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Stir to recombine the ingredients prior to use.




About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Nia says

    Hey Jessica,
    Love using my processor for grating parm. B4 making pesto. I’ve used walnuts when I couldn’t afford pine nuts. Have you tried it with sunflower seeds yet?

    • Jessica says

      @Nia, I haven’t tried sunflower seeds yet because I heard that they turn funky colors when heated.

  2. I love growing basil! Even when we lived in a condo, I planted it in our flowerbed. So inexpensive compared to buying it all the time. This looks deliciously simple.

    • Jessica says

      @Vanderbilt Wife, I feel like it’s all I can do to keep up with the produce box. I’m not sure I could handle growing it! πŸ˜‰

  3. Jenn says

    Before the first frost I harvested all my basil. I took the leaves off of the stems and ran them through my dehydrator. Now I have basil to last through the winter! Last winter I packed fresh basil in a jar of salt and that worked too. I’m still using last year’s basil in my kitchen right now.

  4. Mickie says

    My children have nuts allergy as well and I love pesto. I use sunflower seeds instead of the pine nuts and it works and still tastes like the real thing.

    • Jessica says

      @Mickie, does it turn funky colors when heated?

      • Mickie says

        @Jessica, hmm… I don’t think so. At least I don’t remember it turning colors. I do lightly roast the sunflower seeds on a pan first, so maybe that’s why I didn’t notice color changes?

  5. Deborah says

    Basil is far and away my favorite herb. I grow it every year. One of the easiest ways to preserve it is to chop it a little and sprinkle it in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with water and freeze. Then you can just drop a “basil cube” into pasta dishes, soups, sauces, etc.

    I’ve never thought of cutting the nuts and cheese out of pesto – it sure is a more frugal way to preserve that wonderful taste. I’m about to strip my basil plant for the winter and I think I’ll try this!

    • Jessica says

      @Deborah, I really like this method. I’m not sure I can go any other way now.

  6. LizAndrsn says

    Embrace your inner laziness!
    Just tell people you’ve learned to work smarter, not harder. It makes them feel better.

  7. karen says

    Pesto made with sunflower seeds is awesome! Frugal and you’ll never notice a taste difference. (maybe someone would, but not me!)

    Here in the desert, I plant my basil in my planting beds (next to red yucca, texas sage, and lantana). It has it’s own dripper, so I don’t even have to remember to water it. So far, my basil plants have survived since march–yes even through 120+ summer temps–we’ll see how they stand up to cooler temps.

  8. looks good! i grow herbs on our patio in containers…i can’t wait to have a garden one day.

  9. Melinda P says

    I was told the best way to store herbs, especially basil, was to chop it up, put it in an ice cube tray with enough water to cover and freeze. Once they are frozen, pop the cubes out and store in a ziploc in the freezer. Throw a cube (or two or three) in your recipe, and voila: Fresh basil taste whenever you need it. πŸ™‚

  10. Trish says

    you can also just simply freeze basil leaves without doing anything to them. A pizzaria owner from Sicily clued me in to this. I freeze a few ziploc bags each year. I didn’t have a chance to use up all of last year’s basil, but it is still good. It makes the freezer smell good too.

  11. teresa says

    i love tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil together. YUM! one of my favorite meals at Carrabba’s is their grilled salmon with tomato basil vinaigrette. received an amici club email with the recipe. for 2 servings of the sauce: 1 tomato, washed, seeded, cut to small dice; pinch each of sugar, kosher salt, black pepper; 2T balsamic vinegar and 4T olive oil. pulse in food processor to blend leaving some tomato in pieces. pour sauce into a bowl, add pinch of chopped basil, stir. ladle one ounce of sauce across grilled salmon. ENJOY!

  12. Robin says

    I went to a cooking demonstration once where the chef made pesto. In order to keep his pesto from turning brown, he very quickly blanched the basil, I kid you not! He had a pot of boiling water, and a bowl of ice water right next to his food processor. He dipped the basil in the boiling water for just a few seconds, then into the ice water, then immediately into the food processor. It’s been a few years, and I forgot about it until now… I’m not sure how he held on to the basil when it went into the boiling water… his pesto stood out for quite a while that afternoon and it stayed bright green!

    I always have basil inside in a sunny window in the Wintertime. There is never enough to make pesto, so in the Summer, when there is so much basil I always make pesto and freeze it as ice cubes. Your version will probably freeze better than it does with the cheese and nuts. You can always add these ingredients later after your basil sauce cube is thawed! I can’t imagine life without basil!

  13. Jorge uoxinton says

    I followed your recipe and added roasted unsalted almonds in the end, to give it a little texture. I like pinoles, but wanted to experiment with California almonds, so plentiful and local! I also added a little rock salt. Let us see what tomorrow brings us in terms of flavor! Many thanks

  14. Sarah says

    What type of soup do you have pictured in this post?

    • Jessica says

      I think it was the bean soup from my cookbook.

  15. Maggie says

    Did you know that pine nuts are actually not nuts? They are seeds.
    Check it out and maybe you could have pine nuts in your pesto.
    I read up about it after my mom fed my peanut- allergic son pine nuts! Turns out, they’re seeds.

  16. Hi Jessica! When you tried putting the basil in a glass jar filled with water, did you cut the stems first? I have had luck keeping the basil on the counter in a glass jar filled with water (like flowers) but first I cut the stems to make sure the water can access the plant and I also cover the whole thing with a plastic bag.

  17. TSandy says

    Basil is one of the few things I can grow in Arizona. I have tons of basil since I can grow it year round and like you I’m underwhelmed freezing it for pesto. I finally started dehydrating it since it’s organically grown and giving it away to friends, neighbors, etc. Thanks for the idea of the Basil Rustic Sauce.

    BTW a Salad Shooter does a great job grating harder cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar etc) Yes I know it’s one more small appliance but I adore my Salad Shooter. I’m on my second one. I wore out the first one.

  18. Kori says

    You can use sunflower seeds in place of nuts in pesto! Raw taste best and they go rancid fast so check them before using but it’s cheaper than pine nits and you cannot tell the difference!

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