You Made Pesto: Now What?

Assuming you took my previous advice and made pesto out of your bounty of basil, you may now be wondering what the heck you’re going to do with all that pesto.

Other than eat it directly from the bowl. Which I may or may not do on occasion. I admit nothing.

So here are some ideas for what to do with your tasty, tasty pesto:

1) Pasta. This is the classic solution. Cook up some pasta, toss it with pesto and possibly some chopped up tomatoes/dried tomatoes, grate on some cheese, garnish with a few leaves of basil, and you’re in meal that’s both delicious and classy.

2) Sandwiches. Take some good bread, spread it with pesto, and add some thick slices of fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes in balls in water or in big twisty logs, not the kind that comes in blocks like cheddar) and of farm-fresh tomato. If you’re really feeling decadent, you could also throw in a slice or two of prosciutto and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Serve it hot or cold, either way it’s delicious.

3) Pesto Ranch Dressing. Combine buttermilk (or sour cream, or kefir) and mayonnaise (homemade if you’ve got it, storebought otherwise, but never Miracle Whip) at about a 1:2 ratio, until you get a consistency and flavor you like. This is sorta a matter of personal taste. Add about half a teaspoon of onion powder, and about a quarter cup (or more!) of your pesto. Again, it’s a taste thing. Once it’s lovely and green and basil-y, taste it, add salt and pepper if it needs it, and you’re good to go.

4) Pesto Mushroom Caps: Take small button mushrooms (I suggest the ones from Willow Mountain Mushroom, as they’re delicious, naturally grown, and local), wash them, and remove the stems. Place them concave-side-up in a baking pan with some olive oil, and lightly drizzle them with good balsamic vinegar, trying to get a little bit in each cap. Now, taking care not to spill out the vinegar, fill each cap with pesto. Cut thin slices of parmesan cheese (more like flakes, really) and lay one atop each ‘shroom. Bake at about 350 until the mushrooms are soft and the cheese is melty.

5) Pesto pizza. This, like all things pizza, can go a lot of ways. The simplest solution is to take a pizza crust, smear it with pesto, top it with pizza cheese and cook it. There are a lot of ways to fancy that up – artichokes, sundried tomatoes, grilled chicken, marinated cooked beef, roasted veggies, etc. For a good tutorial on doing this will grilled veggies, go see P-Dub. She’s got pretty pictures and everything.

6) Pesto lasagna. Layer softened lasagna noodles, pesto, and a cheesy mixture of mozzarella (the kind that comes in blocks this time), ricotta, Parmesan and an egg. Throw in some chopped, blanched (or frozen) spinach or chard if you’ve got it. And maybe some strips of sauteed portabello mushroom or some dried tomatoes. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar between the layers if you’d like. Top with cheese. Bake till it’s bubbly.

Hopefully, these will keep the pesto exciting at your house for a while!

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