Give your everyday meals a gourmet feel with pesto . Pesto is a combination of fragrant basil leaves, hearty garlic, tangy Parmesan cheese, rich olive oil, and delicate pine nuts or walnuts, pureed to a delectable, thick sauce. Pesto has its origins in Liguria, Italy, where people have been making it for hundreds of years with the brilliant green basil that grows wild on the hillsides. The popularity of pesto has spread like crazy as people across the world have come to love its heady aroma and its bold, satisfying flavor.
Pasta Loves Pesto? Pesto’s most popular use, and the way you’re probably the most familiar with it, is as a pasta sauce. You can make a quick, easy and delicious meal by tossing some pesto with hot pasta and some sautéd veggies and perhaps some diced leftover meat. Pesto has a very concentrated flavor, so you should use it more sparingly than you would other pasta sauces or it will overpower the flavor of your meal. When using pesto as a pasta sauce, do as the Italians do: before draining the pasta, dip a cupful of the cooking water out of the pot. Blend the water with some pesto a little at a time until the sauce is smooth and creamy. The starch in the water will give the sauce a silky consistency and will make it easier for the sauce to evenly coat and cling to each and every piece of pasta.
Pesto Adds a Punch to Every Meal? Ready-made pesto is available from your local grocery store in shelf-stable jars, in the freezer section, or fresh from the refrigerator case, and it’s great for a lot more than just pasta sauce. Here are some other fantastic and easy ways that pesto can
make your meals rise above the ordinary. Use Pesto:
- As a sauce or coating for fish, chicken, beef, pork or lamb.
- On pizza in place of or in addition to the red sauce
- Mixed with cream sauce or Alfredo sauce and served on fresh ravioli
- As a sandwich spread or burger topping
- Tossed with cooked vegetables
- Mixed with sour cream as a delightful dipping sauce or baked potato topping
- Spread on bread and broiled for a deluxe alternative to plain ol’ garlic bread
- Mixed into mashed potatoes
- Stirred into risotto
- Layered in lasagna
- Dolloped on soup
- Spread on crostini and topped with chopped tomatoes, smoked salmon, roasted red peppers
- or goat cheese for a fabulous and easy appetizer
- Whisked into scrambled eggs or folded into omelets
- In pasta salads
- In potato salads
- In salad dressing
- Mixed with cream cheese and spread on a bagel
The fresh basil that goes into pesto is very delicate. It will turn brown if it gets very hot or if it’s exposed to air for long periods of time. This means that you shouldn’t boil or microwave your pesto if you want it to remain a beautiful, brilliant green color. When mixing it with pasta, potatoes, risotto and the like, stir in the pesto at the last minute, just before serving. You can store an opened container of pesto for a week in the refrigerator; keep it looking fresh and green by blocking out the oxygen. Do this by covering the top with a layer of olive oil or by laying a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pesto.
If you want to preserve your pesto for more than a week, remember that it freezes beautifully. One clever way to freeze pesto in manageable portion sizes is to spoon it into an ice cube tray, wait until it freezes solid, and then transfer it to a heavy, freezer-proof plastic bag. Thaw frozen pesto in the refrigerator or in the microwave on medium power just until room-temperature.
Whether you choose to make your own or take advantage of the convenience of storebought pesto, see what it can do for your meals! We think your family will be saying, “More pesto please!” Here are some recipes to increase your pesto power!
Pesto Bread | Italian Torte | Stuffed Mushrooms III | Creamy Pesto Dipping Sauce (for Veggies) | Chicken Soup au Pistou | Spinach and Pasta Salad | Pesto Surprise | Pesto Vinaigrette Dressing | Crispy Pesto Potatoes | Baked Pesto Chicken | Stephan’s Broiled Salmon Pesto | Pesto Pizza II | Classic Pizza Margharita | Smoked Turkey and Sun-Dried Tomato Wraps | Pesto and Pasta with Lemon and Shrimp | Vinaigrette Pasta Chicken Salad | Chicken Pesto a la Lisa | Creamy Pesto Shrimp |Fettuccini al Fungi | Pesto Lasagna | Pasta with Pesto and Scallops | Smoked Salmon Pesto Pasta