From the Italian word pesta, literally “to pound, to crush,” pesto is a sauce reflecting the deliciousness that occurs when a few simple, but well-grown, and well-combined, ingredients collide. A thick, almost smooth paste made of crushed garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and often grated cheese and pine nuts, a pesto is rustic and royal all at once, utilizing backyard ingredients from the land to make a sauce fit for a king.
You can buy or make pesto in various forms nowadays, ranging from the traditional to the dairy-free to the red (made from sun-dried tomatoes). However you get your pesto, just make sure you’re using it in the kitchen. Don’t let this precious Italian stuff go bad by sitting too long in the fridge! Need some help? Here are 10 ways to eat pesto.
1) Get soupy. In Italy, a pot of minestrone is never complete without adding a swizzle of homemade pesto into the finished soup. Adding a few dollops of green pesto to a pot of soup adds a velvety smoothness, as well as a finishing flavor that pops and lingers on the palate. Great for all creamy soups, stews and pasta soups.
2) Make pasta, duh. How is it that the most obvious answers are also the most overlooked? Make perfect pasta by adding plentiful pesto to warm pasta of your choosing. Or bulk up any existing pasta recipe – such as Bolognese, marinara or baked lasagna – by adding a few scoops of pesto to the mix. It can only get better.
3) Make a schmear. Yes, the deli schmear. NYC residents and lovers of the bagel know what I’m referring to; the thick, cream cheese spread that goes over a bagel or other sandwich. Make a schmear a Jewish grandmother would swoon over by whipping together softened cream cheese and a dollop of pesto.
4) Make a mega-dip. Take ordinary old hummus or black bean dip and make it extraordinary with a spoonful of pesto swirled into the mix. Add your fave dipping foods and you win.
5) Get drizzling. Pesto can be thinned out with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice to make a drizzling sauce perfect for salad dressings, grilled fish and garlic bread.
6) Perk up your casseroles and mashes. The 1950’s casseroles and bakes become something modern and chic when perked up with pesto. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, ham casserole or potatoes au gratin—just a few examples of traditional American dishes that become inter-continental with the addition of a few dollops of pesto in the creamy base.
7) Perfect the pizza. Next time you bake a pizza from scratch, skip the marinara sauce and instead use pesto as the base. Whether your toppings are barbecued chicken, prosciutto and basil, or just plain cheese, you’re going to fall in love with the perfect pizza.
8) Make a marinade. Thin out a few dollops of pesto with lots of olive oil, lime juice or wine, and soy sauce. Use as a marinade for meats, fish and tofu—now get grilling!
9) Cut the dairy. Replace butter with pesto in all sorts of applications; on garlic bread, over warm noodles, when sautéing eggs and veggies and as a dipping oil for seafood and breadsticks.
10) Make a better burger. Whether you’re making veggie burgers or the real deal, add a few dollops of pesto to the batter for insane flavor.