Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

10 Great Ways To Use Pesto

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Lisa Freeman

pesto and bread

What in the heck is that green stuff called pesto anyway? The Italians have birthright to this savory green sauce that is generally made with bits of basil, garlic, salt, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts (can be omitted if you have a nut allergy) and olive oil. Not only is pesto healthy, but it also has endless uses. Pesto is actually very easy to make, but you can buy it in any grocery store too. If you do make it on your own the great news is that pesto freezes exceptionally well, so you can make a big batch and store it for future use.

A quick word of caution: Don’t overuse pesto — it can be quite overpowering and leave your recipe looking like a St. Paddy’s Day brawl in no time flat. If you’re unfamiliar with where to use it, here’s a slew of ideas to get you going:

  1. Pesto Bread: It doesn’t get easier than this, folks! Just a smear of pesto and you’ve got a great variation on garlic bread. These take just 25 minutes to make from top to bottom and would make a great dinner appetizer, too.
  2. Green Pizza: Pesto on pizza is just a natural. Don’t even worry about making the pizza at home, you can just as easily jazz-up your take-out pizza with a spritz of pesto for added flavor and cool color.
  3. Pesto Pasta Salad: Hot or cold pasta will gather some great flavor with the addition of some pesto. There are literally dozens of ways to use pesto in pasta, so you shouldn’t be afraid to add it to your dishes.
  4. Grilled Shrimp: Fire up your indoor grill or BBQ if you’ve got one, and brush on a bit of pesto for a pretty and healthy dish. Just a few minutes of work yields an inventive twist on ordinary shrimp.
  5. Pesto Steak: A little of the green stuff goes a long way on a steak.
  6. Potatoes: Whether baked or mashed, pesto is a delightful twist on the ordinary. I’ve even used it as a dip for French fries.
  7. White Bean Pesto Dip: Okay, now I’m really hungry! If you’ve checked out our post on dips and you’re still hankering for something different, this white bean dip is sure to fit the bill and it’s super easy to make.
  8. Marinade: Pesto rocks as a marinade on either chicken or fish. This same recipe can be used for either one.

    pesto salmon

  9. Scrambled Eggs: Add some punch to tiresome eggs with a touch of pesto and you’re on your way to an appealing variation that will add some energy to breakfast.
  10. Soup: Don’t think I’m kidding you for one minute. If you haven’t heard of pesto soup, then you’re certainly missing out.

Final Thoughts: Pesto can be made in lots of different ways (and comes in plenty of variations as well), so you don’t have to stick to the basil recipe above by any means. You’ll see versions with parsley, sundried tomatoes (often called red pesto), red peppers, spinach and on and on. Let your imagination run wild.

So what are you using pesto for? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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18 Comments

leo said:

I have always wanted to try pesto on a number of things – thanks for all these great ideas.

Lisa Freeman said:

The biggest mistake people make with pesto is using too much–and that absolutely will end up sending your meal into the trash because pesto has a very intense flavor. Use is very sparingly and you should be totally all right! Give it a try!

mary mert said:

I am drooling! I love pesto, these are all great ideas!

will said:

mmmm yummy!!!

cilantro makes great pesto as well. works well with cashews,

I like to make basil pesto with walnuts as well

what about just simple HOT pasta with pesto — seems it was forgotton in the list… probably because that’s the default use…

Karen (Pediascribe) said:

I was looking for roasted tomatoes the other day and the store was out. I ended up getting roasted tomato pesto instead. I’ve been loving a bit of that on some melba crackers with a bit of fresh mozzarella on it.

MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm

Kathy Maister said:

Sounds delicious to have as a light lunch or to serve with drinks!

Jennifer said:

Love this post Kathy!

I make pesto for my vegetarian friends as a gift in the summer so they can dress up their grilled veggies.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Jennifer! I love eating basil in the summer – it seems to have a more intense flavor than the winter hot house grown basil.

JMom said:

We love pesto and can’t wait until our basil starts putting out again this year. I just recently made a fish and pesto dish that is to die for!

Thanks for the link to the chicken marinade :)

Anonymous said:

AARON said:

OH MY GOSH I JUST TRIED PESTO WITH PENNE PASTA FOR THE FIRST TIME! IT IS AWESOME I FEEL LIKE A KID WITH A NEW TOY! I LOVE FOOD!

Bruce said:

I saw a recipe for pesto that suggests freezing it after you make the pesto paste; this way it will keep all year long; exactly what must you do to use the pesto in this form?

startcooking said:

When basil is in season, it is great to make big batches of pesto and freeze it. From there you can use it as you would freshly made pesto. Here is a site that describes in great detail How to Freeze Pesto.

Josh said:

Use radish greens instead of basil. Great way to make use of something tasty that most people discard. Not as sweet, but very flavourful.

Stephanie said:

The white bean pesto dip looks terrific. Can’t wait to try it!

Sarah Trevino said:

This was perfect to stumble across. I was making pest for a Spinach and pesto lasagna and decided to make extra for these recipes. Great ideas

SarahT said:

This was perfect to stumble across. I was making pest for a Spinach and pesto lasagna and decided to make extra for these recipes. Great ideas
http://www.chefwife.com/Homepage.html

startcooking said:

Thanks Sarah!
I shall look forward to seeing your site up and running!
Best of Luck,
Kathy