A dollop of pesto is like flavor magic, instantly transforming everyday ingredients with its herbaceous savory essence. There are many variations of pesto, but the classic is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. (See my recipe below.)
I personally always have a batch on hand, whether I whip it up myself or buy it already made. I usually freeze it in an ice cube tray then store the cubes in a freezer bag so I can grab one to thaw quickly whenever I want a pop of flavor. If you’re buying pesto in the store I recommend getting one from the refrigerator section which will taste much brighter and fresher than the shelf-stable kind on the shelf, although that will do in a pinch too.
What to do with it? The list is endless, but here are seven ideas that go beyond the usual pasta dish.
- Use it as a bread spread! This picture is from my trip to Cinque Terre Italy where they are famous for their fabulous pesto. They serve it spread generously on bread and it is absolutely heavenly!
- Turn it into salad dressing. Add a scoop of pesto to a basic oil and vinegar dressing to amp up the dressing’s flavor.
- Stir it into soup. Take any broth-y soup, like a chicken soup, vegetable soup or bean soup, and top it with a dollop of pesto for a punch of flavor and color.
- Use it instead of mayo to dress summer salads. Made with healthy olive oil and herbs pesto not only makes for an exciting flavor change-up, it’s also better-for-you than mayo based dressings. Use it on potato salad, macaroni salad, shrimp salad, etc… Here is my recipe for Pesto Potato Salad (link to recipe here).
- Spread it on pizza. Pesto is a lovely way to switch up the usual tomato sauce based pizza.
- Toss it with steamed vegetables. Stirring a dollop of pesto into a batch of steamed vegetables makes them lusciously tasty in a healthful way.
- Drizzle onto grilled fish or chicken. No need to settle for boring, bland proteins when you have some pesto on hand.
Here’s my recipe for a basic Basil Pesto. Enjoy!
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown, shaking the pan frequently, about 3 minutes
In a food processor, process the pine nuts and garlic together until minced. Add the basil, Parmesan, and lemon juice and process until finely minced. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until well blended. Season with the salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings, 1 cup
Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Per serving: Calories 170; Total Fat 17g (Mono Fat 10.9g, Poly Fat 2.9g, Sat Fat 2.7g); Protein 2g; Carb 1g; Fiber 0g; Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 125mg
Excellent source of: Manganese, Vitamin K
Good source of: Vitamin A, Vitamin E
To refrigerate: Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
To freeze and thaw: Place the sauce into a sealable plastic bag or pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes of sauce to a sealable plastic freezer bag where it will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 18-24 hours. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Alternatively, Place in a microwave safe dish, cover and microwave on high for about 20 seconds for one portion.