raw spaghetti

Pesto comes from the Italian word meaning “to pound,” but it’s come to refer to much more than a sauce pounded in a mortar and pestle. The combination of basil, oil, nuts and cheese is a delicious concoction that can be varied through the addition of a great number of ingredients… and served with pretty much anything. Pesto recipes are nearly infinite, nowadays.

While the most traditional pesto recipes add it to specific pasta shapes — trofie and trenette — we’ve taken quite a few liberties when adding this flavorful sauce to this week’s Meatless Monday meals. Discover our favorite ways to use pesto in vegetarian recipes.

The recipe pictured above is certainly a play on the classic, but few Italians would recognize it as pasta. A bed of shredded zucchini “spaghetti” is topped with a raw tomato sauce, full of fresh basil. The base of the raw spaghetti dish is a bit of flavorful pesto. Separating the components allows the diner to decide just how much of the sauces they would like in each bite.

Rustic Italian Pasta Recipe, by Kimberley Stakal

Image by Kimberley Stakal

This walnut pesto pasta recipe isn’t just vegetarian — it’s vegan! It’s also not exactly a traditional pesto. Instead of a paste, the pesto is a free-form pan-sauce, with all of the traditional pesto ingredients — hold the cheese, of course — uniting along with pasta, broccoli and cauliflower. This warm version of a standard pesto is perfect for the cooler spring days that so many throughout the country are still experiencing.

soupe au pistou

Image: Edsel Little

Soupe au pistou is a Provençal soup similar to minestrone. Some versions have pasta, like this one, which calls for all those bits of broken spaghetti you never know what to do with. Use store-bought pesto or make your own as the topping to this delicious French country dish.

burrata salad

Image and recipe courtesy of author Georgeanne Brennan and Weldon Owen Publishing.

As the summer months approach, the cherry tomatoes are becoming perfectly sweet and ripe. While we’re still waiting for the larger heirlooms to follow in suit, try this cherry tomato salad, topped with pesto and served with burrata: a creamy cousin of mozzarella. The combination of the sweet, acidic flavor of the tomatoes, the spicy, herbaceousness of the basil and the creamy richness of the burrata is a surefire winner.

Top image: Emily Monaco

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