Keeping a good jar of homemade pesto around can make any dish extraordinary in a matter of minutes.
Pesto sauce, which traditionally consists of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses and salt, may be made with others greens and other nuts or seeds. Cilantro, arugula, kale, spinach or mint are good choices. Instead of pignoli nuts, try hemp seeds, almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), hazelnuts or walnuts.
When the basil or other type of green that you’d like to use is in season, make a big batch of pesto by doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the recipe. Jar it up into glass jars and freeze it for use throughout the year. Pouring a layer of olive oil over the pesto will seal it from oxygen and inhibit browning and spoilage – both when it’s frozen or refrigerated. It’s a good idea to replenish this layer as you use the pesto. Freezing pesto in ice cubes trays and then popping out the cubes and storing then in a container in the freezer is another way to go.
Ideas for using Pesto
- Add a scoop to liven up your soup.
- Spread it on toast and make bruschetta, an easy hors d’oeuvre.
- Use some as a topping or dip for cooked meat, fish, or vegetables.
- Mix it into ground beef, chicken or turkey to make pest burgers.
- Thin out pesto with olive oil and drizzle it over fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes.
- Add a spoonful to your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing. Or whisk a spoonful with some lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
- Use it as a spread on a sandwich or a wrap.
- Make a pesto chicken salad by whisking together a couple spoonfuls of pesto with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, and mixing with cooked chicken.
- Mix it into pasta. Just place a couple spoonfuls of pesto in a bowl, add cooked pasta, a touch of pasta cooking water, and stir. Serve it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, pignoli nuts and peas. Substitute spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for pasta and use extra virgin olive oil to thin the pesto in place of pasta cooking water.