How Use Pesto Sauce: 10 Tasty & Healthier Alternatives to Pasta
Among the most decadent of pasta sauces is pesto.
Robust in flavor and color, pesto’s basil and garlic base seems to dominate your palate. But if you’re not in the mood for pasta and you’re looking for a healthier alternative, how else can you use pesto sauce?
Well, we’ve got plenty of mouth-watering ideas about how to use pesto.
This article is for two groups of people:
The first group can’t get enough of this salty green sauce. No longer content to pour it over penne, you’re on the hunt for creative ways to sneak pesto into breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’re with you. We love it so much, we make our own Public Goods Pesto Sauce.
The second group of people have some leftover pesto in the fridge. Because pesto has a high fat content and goes so well over carbs, you might be wondering how you can make the most of your leftovers without packing on the calories. You’re puzzled about what else could possibly go well with such a strong garlicky flavor. We’ve been there, too.
No matter the reason you’re here, we’ve got easy lip-smacking solutions to your pesto predicament.
What is Pesto Sauce Made From?
If you want to learn how to use pesto in new ways, you should first understand its flavor profile.
Classic Italian pesto sauce is made from basil, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt. These ingredients are blended together into a rich green sauce.
Each brand of pesto will have different quantities of each ingredient. They may even have a few different ingredients entirely.
Nonetheless, basil, parmesan and garlic are the predominant flavors. Basil reminds us of summertime in full bloom. Garlic underscores the fruity notes of basil with an earthy musk while parmesan adds seasoned salt.
A little pesto will go a long way. The flavor is potent enough that one jar could probably cover all the following ideas about how to use pesto.
How to Use Pesto in 10 Flavorful Ways
Let’s stop wondering what to put pesto on and start learning about the many delectable uses for pesto.
What is pesto used for? You’re probably already aware that pesto is considered a pasta sauce, often found on spaghetti, fettuccine and penne. But you’ll soon see that pesto goes with so much more.
1. Pesto Pizza
Enjoy eight slices of heaven in your own home. Homemade pizza tends to be less greasy than the big name brands. It’s also amazingly versatile.
Because there are so many ways to make pizza, we’ll just tell you our top two ways to use pesto on pizza:
1. Mix Pesto Into the Crust
As you knead your pizza dough, add dollops of pesto until it takes on a light green tint. This is a mild way to spice up your pizza without offending any picky eaters.
2. Use It As a Sauce
Begone, marinara! There’s a new sauce in town. We prefer a thick spread of pesto as a pizza sauce, but it’s just as nice mixed with a creamy alfredo. Creamy alfredo with pesto is milder than straight pesto and will make your pesto last even longer.
Pesto sauce pizza goes incredibly well with portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Top your pizza with complementary proteins like sausage, chicken, bacon and tofu. Or make a thin crust Caprese pizza with sliced mozzarella and tomatoes on top for the perfect summer appetizer.
2. Pesto Sandwiches and Burgers
You don’t have to go out to a fancy burger bar to have an artisan sandwich. Grab a grilled chicken breast or hamburger patty and sourdough bread. Toss the ketchup aside. Toast those buns and smear a hearty helping of pesto sauce on them instead.
To better match the flavor profile of the pesto, consider swapping iceberg lettuce for spinach and arugula. Top it off with a nice muenster or goat cheese, and you’ve got yourself a deluxe lunch.
3. Add It to a Charcuterie Board
Pesto’s saltiness pairs nicely with the smokey flavors of salami, pepperoni and almost any cheese.
It’s easy to learn how to serve pesto as a dip. Simply place a ramekin of pesto sauce next to your honey brown mustard and pepper jelly cream cheese on the board. Your guests will show you what a great addition it is by devouring it, and you’ll appreciate this effortless use of pesto.
4. Basil Garlic Bread
Garlic bread and pesto seem like the most natural pair in the world, yet pesto remains underutilized here. Give your pesto some purpose.
In the summer, grab a baguette and slice it in half. Mix about 2 tablespoons of pesto with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Evenly spread the pesto on the insides of the baguette and throw the halves face-down on the grill for 3-5 minutes, or until crispy with light brown grill lines. Flip it over, sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and serve.
In the winter, place the two baguette halves on a baking sheet. With the same 2:1 pesto and olive oil mixture, paint the faces of the bread. Feel free to add some minced garlic here. Spread mozzarella cheese all over the top and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread are golden brown.
5. Salad Dressing
We love Italian dressing. Vinegary, tart and garlicky, basil pesto is a natural addition. It adds a freshness that ushers in springtime.
But why stop there? Add longevity and a unique twist to creamy dressings like ranch and blue cheese.
For the ultimate pesto lovers, you can use this easy pesto recipe to make your own pesto vinaigrette:
- ½ cup basil pesto
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- ⅛ cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon
There isn’t an appetizer betta’ than bruschetta. For the uninitiated, bruschetta uses a round slice of bread as a small edible plate for a slice of mozzarella cheese and tomato, or tasty tomato salad.
Step up your bruschetta by topping this classic hor d’oeuvre with a dollop of pesto. Pesto adds color and complements the fresh flavors of the cheese and tomato.
7. Pesto Pasta Salad
Put away the ranch. Pasta salads just got tastier, classier and healthier.
Despite its high fat content, the fat in pesto comes from olive oil. It’s a type of fat that doesn’t raise your cholesterol. Still, both ranch and pesto are high in calories, so use them in moderation.
Now that the business is out of the way, here’s a pesto recipe for pasta salad that you won’t be able to get enough of.
Our Favorite Summer Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
First, cook one pound of bowtie pasta (or our delicious gluten-free fusilli pasta). Put it in a large bowl and let it chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
Next, slice ½ cup of cherry or grape tomatoes in half and add directly to the cold pasta. Dice and add ½ a green pepper, ½ cup of coarsely grated mozzarella cheese and the zest of 1 lemon.
Finally, mix in a ½ cup of pesto. You can add or substitute ¼ cup of broth to the pesto to make it spread evenly and reduce calories.
Voila! This pasta salad recipe serves 8.
8. Use It As A Protein Topper
Did you know many sauces and marinades are loaded with sugar? Skip the glycemic spike. Opt for pesto at your next cookout.
When it comes to proteins, what goes with pesto?
Our top recommendation is grilled chicken. The smokey charred edges truly enhance the vibrant leafy flavor of the basil.
But have you ever tried pesto on steak? You may not ever grab steak sauce again. Step up the savoriness by whipping one tablespoon of pesto into two tablespoons of butter. Place a spoonful on top of your hot-off-the-grill steak and watch it melt into the fibers.
Pesto also goes wonderfully on salmon steaks. Try baking your next salmon filet with a layer of pesto and thin slices of lemons on top. The heat helps the juicy flavors seep into the meat.
No, we didn’t forget about vegetarians and vegans. Almost all vegan proteins from tofu to tempeh seem made for a pesto marinade.
9. Drizzle Pesto On Eggs
Whether it’s a drizzle of pesto to make your eggs benedict stand out, or a whole scoop mixed into your scrambled eggs, pesto is an excellent addition to breakfast or brunch.
Eggs florentine, for example, already includes some of the best foods that pesto goes with. English muffins, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, spinach, ham and bacon already lend themselves seamlessly to pesto sauce.
And if you’re really creative, pesto hollandaise sauce is a heavenly addition to any meal.
10. Add To Fried and Baked Food
Still wondering what to put pesto on? How about any fried or baked food?
Maybe I’ve lived in the South too long, but my first recommendation for this category is fried green tomatoes on a bed of arugula drizzled with pesto. If you can’t find green tomatoes, a hearty beefsteak tomato breaded and fried is a delicious substitute.
Fried chicken, shrimp, tofu and mozzarella sticks are also incredible with a pesto dip. I prefer to bake breaded chicken as it’s healthier than deep frying food. Plus, as much as I love fried and baked food, the pesto is the star of the dish.
Can You Eat Pesto Straight From The Jar?
We’ve already shared several tantalizing ways to use pesto sauce, but can you just eat pesto on its own? Technically, yes, you can eat pesto straight from the jar and enjoy the taste, but this sauce is usually best served as a flavor enhancing component of your favorite dish.
Cooking with Pesto: An All-Italian Passtime
Hopefully, you’ve learned some creative ways to use pesto. Whether you wanted to know how to use pesto in every meal, or you simply hate to waste such a mouthwatering (and often pricey) pasta sauce, you should be in a better position to tickle your tastebuds now.
Do you have creative uses for pesto? We’d love to hear them!
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