The flavor of pesto is unbeatable and its uses are many. The only downfall of so many pestos is that they are thinned with olive oil–a lot of oil. As it turns out, an easy adjustment not only lightens the recipe, it makes this flavor-packed condiment even more versatile.
My simple solution to the oil overload may seem obvious: make the pesto thick, like a spread. If I decide to use the pesto as a sauce, say for pasta, I simply mix in some of the pasta water to thin to the desired consistency. White wine or chicken stock work well, too. For spreading on pizzas and sandwiches or topping chicken or fish and even tomatoes, however, I actually prefer the thicker pesto, which uses about a quarter of the oil many recipes call for.
The use of Asiago and Parmesan combined with two types of nuts adds further depth of flavor. I like to double the recipe and freeze in half-cup containers. For a quick dinner all year long, I purchase fresh pasta and use a half cup of pesto (thinned with the cooking water) for every eight ounces of pasta. Garnish with a few pine nuts and chopped tomatoes, if desired. For a heartier yet equally easy meal, top with a piece of broiled salmon or grilled chicken.
We also adore this Grilled Pesto Veggiewich, which is a copycat version of a much-loved restaurant sandwich. And if you search “pesto” on this blog, a few other family favorites will appear. Then scroll just past the recipe below to see a list of easy ways ratchet up flavor through the use of pesto…and feel free to add your favorite ways to enjoy this fresh-tasting spread/sauce!
Basil is multi-purpose herb in its own right, but when transformed into a fresh batch of pesto, this useful herb becomes a versatile condiment that adds incredible flavor to so many things:
- Add a spoonful of pesto to roasted or steamed veggies and toss to evenly coat
- Use as a sauce for pizza or flatbread
- Swap out the butter for pesto in your favorite garlic bread recipe
- Stir into marinara sauce or soup
- Ratchet up the flavor of a basic vinaigrette
- Use as a simple sauce on hot pasta dishes and cold pasta salads
- Substitute pesto for mayo on a variety of sandwiches
- Bake into savory breads and muffins
- Stir into eggs–omelets, scrambled eggs, frittatas, egg salad and quiche are all fair game
- Add to sour cream or yogurt-based dips, or even guacamole
- Mash into a baked potato instead of butter
- Add to tuna salad
- Flavor chicken, shrimp or your favorite flat fish, from salmon to tilapia
- Toss into cooked rice, quinoa, couscous and other grains for use in hot side dishes and cold salads
What are your favorite ways to use pesto?
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and several grinds of the pepper mill
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups loosely packed, fresh basil
- 4 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine the nuts, salt, pepper, garlic, basil and cheeses. Pulse until finely chopped, keeping just a bit of texture.
With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Process until well blended.
Place the pesto in a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Or pack in smaller freezer-safe containers and freeze for future use.