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TIP OF THE DAY: 20+ Uses For Pesto

The Italian word pesto means paste; the verb pestare means to pound or bruise.

Classic pesto sauce, which originated in the basil-rich Italian province of Liguria, consists of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses plus a touch of salt for seasoning. It is traditionally made by pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, which releases more of the flavorful oils in the basil than those made by the blades of a food processor or in commercial production.

But, switch out the basil for other greens (arugula, spinach), ditch the greens entirely (kalamata olives; orange, red or yellow bell pepper; sundried tomato), switch the nuts (pistachio, walnut), change the seasonings (try sundried tomato pesto with chipotle).

You can even add fresh tomato, ricotta, yogurt or crème fraîche. Pink pesto, an American invention, is a mix of fresh tomatoes, a bit of pesto, some onions and a hint of cream. Garlic lovers should try roasted garlic pesto, a rich, golden paste flecked with herbs and small walnut chunks.


Pesto as a cheese condiment. Photo courtesy

Don’t be hesitant: Try anything. The pestobilities are endless!

Pesto At Breakfast

  • A condiment with any style of eggs
  • A spread for toast and other breads
  • Mixed with cream cheese or Greek yogurt on a bagel

    A traditional use of pesto: as a garnish for
    fish, meat or poultry. Photo courtesy


    Pesto At Lunch & Dinner

  • A topping for pasta and pizza
  • A condiment with proteins: chicken, pork, seafood, tofu
  • A garnish or mix-in for beans, rice and other grains (barley, quinoa, etc.)
  • A topping for vegetables
  • With potatoes (try pesto potatoes instead of parsley potatoes; pesto mashed potatoes are a must!)
  • As a sandwich spread (with anything from tuna salad to grilled cheese)
  • To bind a pasta salad or potato salad, alone or with mayonnaise
  • Mixed into vinaigrette or other salad dressing
  • Pesto croutons*
  • Mixed into meatballs and meat loaf
  • Layered between tomato and mozzarella slices (Caprese salad)
  • Mixed with mayonnaise for “instant” flavored mayo
  • In compound butter (delicious in baked potatoes)
  • On burgers and hot dogs
  • As a soup garnish
  • In stir-fries
  • In marinades

    In Liguria, popular pesto-and-pasta dishes include trenette and triofe alla Genovese. Trenette, flat ribbon pasta almost identical to linguine with a surface the sauce can cling to. Triofe are dumpling-like, rolled, worm-shaped pasta with crevices for pesto to fill. You can substitute gnocchi; and if you’re a penne or rigatoni person, go for it. You can use any substantial pasta that can take a heavy dressing (i.e., not angel hair); and by all means, use pesto instead of red sauce in your lasagne.

    Here’s how to match pasta shape to type of sauce.

    Pesto With Appetizers & Snacks

  • On bruschetta, crostini or crusty bread (the difference between bruschetta and crostini)
  • As a dip for crackers or crudités, alone or mixed into mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt
  • As a cheese condiment
  • As a hummus garnish or mix-in

    Here’s a delicious and easy pesto recipe.

    Whether it’s your own or store-bought, here’s how to store pesto.

    Our favorite pesto brands.
    *Pesto croutons: Combine 4 cups bread cubes, 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet; bake 20 minutes at 350°F.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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