Spicy Basil Pesto

Spicy Basil Pesto ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

Spicy Basil Pesto ~ Serrano pepper takes the world’s freshest sauce from simple to sassy in one fell swoop ~ stir it into freshly boiled pasta, spread it over grilled fish, spoon it on a baked potato, or soak it up with a torn piece of bread, it makes all other sauces obsolete.

Spicy Basil Pesto ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

My spicy basil pesto is the original awesome sauce

Of course I make it all summer long, but to tell you the truth I enjoy it most during the cooler months — it’s a real palate refresher after a heavy diet of chilis and casseroles. And the great thing is you can get all the ingredients year ’round, so you never have to be without a freshly made jar of this stuff. Next to tomato, it’s got to be the most versatile sauce out there.

TIP: Do you want to know a secret? The way to get the BEST pesto is to use LIVING basil, that is, just picked from your yard, or from a potted plant that you can buy at most grocery stores these days. The color and flavor is superior.

Spicy Basil Pesto is a kicked up version of the most versatile sauce on the planet! ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

How can you look into that green abyss and not want to dive in? I love pesto 🙂

Spicy Basil Pesto from theviewfromthegreatisland.com

Once you’ve made pesto once or twice you’ll realize you don’t need a recipe

You can use your instincts and add the ingredients by eye, you simply can’t go wrong. No two pesto recipes will be the same, and that’s a great thing. By adding a little of this, or a little of that, you can customize it endlessly. Your pesto can be thick or thin, cheesy or vegan, nutty or not. Today I dropped a Serrano chili into my processor and created something really special. This got raves all around, it’s spicy but not too much.

TIP: Going without a recipe is scary for some, it feels like jumping out of a plane without a parachute, but it’s so worth it to develop a few dishes that you can whip up without being tied to a phone, computer, or book. Pesto is the ideal place to start, you can’t screw it up!

Spicy Basil Pesto is made with a Serrano pepper for a wonderful kick! ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

Here’s what you can do with this Spicy Basil Pesto~

  • Dress hot or cold pasta.
  • Spread it on roasted chicken, salmon, steak, or pork.
  • Use it as a salad dressing.
  • Use it as a mayonnaise replacement in chicken or shrimp salad.
  • Serve it as an appetizer dip with bread or veggies
  • Drizzle over grilled vegetables

TIP: Shape matters, so choose a pasta that will embrace your sauce, I prefer rotini because it grabs and holds more of this zesty Spicy Basil Pesto than any other.

Spicy Basil Pesto ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

3.54 from 39 votes

Spicy Basil Pesto

Spicy Basil Pesto ~ Serrano pepper takes the world's freshest sauce from simple to sassy in one fell swoop ~ stir it into freshly boiled pasta, spread it over grilled fish, spoon it on a baked potato, or soak it up with a torn piece of bread, it makes all other sauces obsolete.
Course sauce, condiment
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Yield 1 cup
Author Sue Moran


  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • a couple of good fistfuls of fresh basil leaves about 2 packed cups
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • olive oil start with 1/2 cup, add more as needed to make a loose sauce
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


  • Drop the garlic clove into a food processor while it is running, and run the machine until the garlic is finely minced.
  • Trim the stem off the hot pepper and slice it in chunks. Add it to the machine, seeds and all, while it is running, and wait until it is finely minced.
  • Next add the pine nuts and Parmesan cheese and process until everything is smooth. Add the basil and lemon juice and pulse, scraping down the sides of the machine a few times, until the basil has broken down. Drizzle in the olive oil while processing. Process until the pesto is as smooth as you like. It can be chunky or smooth, it's your choice.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more olive oil if you want a looser pesto.
  • Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and use within 10 days.

Cook's notes

  • This is a small batch recipe, double or triple the ingredients for more.  For a small batch I use my mini food processor, but move up to your full size machine for larger amounts.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2022 at 7:16 am

    Hi Sue! I love pesto but I can’t eat the Serrano pepper. Can I heave it out or add more of something else in place of it?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 12, 2022 at 7:17 am

      Absolutely, just leave it out!

  • Reply
    August 31, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Hi there…. just love your recipes. Save and use often. Does your pesto recipe freeze well?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      I think pretty much all pesto freezes well, Rhonda, so I would definitely recommend it with this one. And thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    This looks delicious! I don’t have a food processor–do you think I could make this in a blender?

    • Reply
      October 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Yes absolutely, you might just have to scrape down the sides often, depending on your blender. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I love pesto. I’ve never thought to make a spicy version. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      October 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Hope you give this one a go, Jeff!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    5 stars
    I am loving this ‘sassy’ version of pesto, Sue! I’d love this over some fresh tomatoes and drizzled with balsamic too! What a beautiful color.

  • Reply
    Jules @ WolfItDown
    October 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    This sauce sounds fantasmic! It always tastes ten times better when it’s home made 😀 I hope you have a great weekend Sue! xx

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    October 15, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Oh yes please! I love basil pesto and a spicy, beautiful version like this must be amazing! I could eat this on everything 🙂

  • Reply
    October 15, 2016 at 7:41 am

    my favourite basil for pesto is Genovese , it has so much flavour. Yes I freeze lots to use all winter.

  • Reply
    Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
    October 15, 2016 at 4:35 am

    I love your new twist on pesto. I can always count on you for a new creative recipe idea!

  • Reply
    October 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I love the idea of taking classic pesto and making it spicy, my basil plants are still producing so I’m definitely trying this ASAP!

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