Homemade vs. Store-Bought Pesto: Which Is Better?

And if you do go homemade, here's how to do it

There are few things pesto can't single-handedly make better. Got some sad-looking greens in the crisper? What about leftover roast vegetables or plain chicken breasts? Add a spoonful of pesto, and you've got yourself a born-again meal. 

If you really want to experience the boldly bright, herbaceous sauce in its ultimate form, then nothing besides whipping up a batch at home will do. But in a pinch, you can buy pesto in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Just make sure you go for this version instead of the one in a jar, because though it may last a lot longer than the former, that's about all it has going for itself.

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While traditional pesto calls for fresh basil, you can also make it with herbs, such as parsley, cilantro or sage, or swap in greens, like arugula or even spinach. But it's hard to turn down the big, impossibly fragrant bunches of basil from the greenmarket. Here's how to turn them into pesto at home.

① Organize Your Ingredients

You'll need 2 cups of greens; ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (this plays a heavy hand in final flavor, so be sure to choose one you know and like); 3 cloves of garlic; a palmful of pine nuts, almonds or walnuts; and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Use this as a loose rubric though: You can roast the garlic first if you want less bite, skip the nuts altogether if you don't have any on hand or swap in Romano for Parmesan.

② Put It All Together

Place the basil, garlic and nuts in a food processor, and pulse until everything is broken up and starting to come together. Slowly pour in the olive oil with the processor running, and once you have a sauce-like consistency, add the cheese and pulse together until just mixed in. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve in whatever way your heart desires.

It might sound easier to throw the store-bought stuff in your shopping cart, but in reality, low-effort homemade pesto with its minimal ingredients tastes better, feels fresher and is 100 percent worth it. There's no topping the sweet, potent hit of herbs; bracing garlic bite; and nutty nuance of the add-ins that come with homemade.

Stacey Lastoe is a writer, editor, runner and an ambitious cook and eater. Say hi (or share a recipe idea) on Twitter at @stacespeaks.