Classic basil pesto instantly transforms ordinary dishes into something delicious and different in a flash. By making it at home you can control and vary the recipe to your taste using top quality ingredients. Pesto is so versatile. Try some of the ideas in my list below.
Traditionally from Genoa, Italy, pesto is a fresh uncooked sauce or paste made with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, grated cheese and garlic. I add a little fresh lemon juice to mine. Historically it was made in a mortar and pestle. I prefer the power of my food processor to make it easily and quickly. Make it chunky or smooth. It’s up to you.
What can you do with pesto?
- Stir a couple of generous tablespoons into mashed potatoes for pesto mashed potatoes
- Toss pesto with roasted red potatoes when they are hot out of the oven
- Transform a simple turkey sandwich into something special with pesto instead of mayo and mustard, then grill it on a Panini maker for a pesto Panini
- Make pesto-mayonnaise by combining pest and a little low fat mayo
- Add to portobello mushrooms as an appetizer or meatless main dish
- Garnish soup, like the classic tomato soup recipe
- Mix with low fat sour cream or plain yogurt as a dip for raw vegetables (crudités)
- Stir it into risotto for a rich, vibrant green Pesto Risotto
- Thin pesto down with a little half and half or milk, warm it up and made a sauce for fresh broiled swordfish or salmon
- Toss with cooked, chilled rotini (corkscrew) pasta, add tomatoes if desired for a quick, cool pasta salad
- Put a few dollops on a platter of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with good Balsamic vinegar and olive oil for an Italian Caprese-style salad
- Add a little to a vinaigrette for a pesto dressing for tossed green salad or roasted or grilled vegetables
- Garnish deviled eggs
- Thin the pesto with milk or half and half, warm, and make a sauce for grilled or roast fish, like halibut or salmon
But the dish that’s a “go-to” when I’ve got a hungry husband in need of a fast dinner is pasta with pesto and chicken. It’s one of his all-time favorites. The link is on the title of the dish./donotprint]
Classic Basil Pesto
Yield: about 1 3/4 cups (easily cuts in half for a half batch)
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 8 ounces fresh basil leaves, washed and stemmed (about 4 cups of tightly packed leaves)
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, American or Italian (or walnuts if you don’t like pine nuts)
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- In a food processor fitted with a steel chopping blade, drop the peeled garlic cloves through the feed tube while its running to mince the garlic. Alternatively use a garlic press for finely minced garlic. Add basil leaves, oil, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the food processor and process until fairly smooth. You can control the texture by how long you pulse. If it’s too thick for your tastes, thin with a little water, more olive oil, or a combination of the two. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if you desire.
- Using a flexible spatula scrape your fresh pesto into a container with a tightly fitting lid. It will last for about a week in the refrigerator.
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