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Fresh Ideas for Pesto

POSTED April 2, 2017

Do more than dress your linguine with this fresh, fragrant green sauce. From sandwiches to soups, pesto shines in a number of everyday dishes.

Pesto, the unique and beloved basil-based sauce that originated in the gorgeous region of Liguria, has become increasingly familiar to food lovers in recent years. Whether it’s imported from Italy or made at home, this crowning glory of Mediterranean cuisine is now paired with a surprisingly diverse array of foods and dishes. Though it hasn’t quite reached the level of popularity of, say, mayonnaise or mustard, it’s getting there.

Originally made famous served with trofie or linguine pasta (and more recently with gnocchi), Pesto alla Genovese has long been known to be a great topping for pasta. Its intense flavor—an inimitable blend of aromatic basil, olive oil,  pecorino cheese, pine nuts and garlic—requires a somewhat neutral accompaniment; pasta, of course, has been the traditional choice, but bread is the next most obvious suspect. Pesto can be used as a spread on a great variety of panini (sandwiches) and bruschette (toasted bread)—but one needn’t stop there: try a “schmear” of pesto on a bagel; or on a baguette with a mild cheese and/or sopressata or ham, or grilled chicken or turkey, and sliced tomatoes; or spread a bit of pesto on the inside of a pita pocket, then stuff it with grilled vegetables, cheese and top with watercress or arugula. Pesto is a great enhancement for vegan sandwiches—a bit of pesto with grilled eggplants, peppers, zucchini and/or portobello mushrooms makes a delicious panino, especially when grilled. If you like cheese, try adding a dollop of pesto to a good goat cheese, or serve with fresh ricotta or ricotta salata, provolone or mozzarella. One thing to bear in mind: With the more intense cheeses and most air-cured cold cuts (especially the imported ones), use only a tad of pesto—just a teaspoon or so—you want the pesto to enhance the other flavors, not compete with them. 

A spoonful of pesto is great in minestrone (vegetable soup)—a tradition in the Liguria region. Pesto must be used uncooked (so as not to destroy the delicate basil flavor), but you can add it to sauces when the flame is off. It can be added to a variety of pasta dishes, of course—and to a host of meat and fish sauces as well.  But, it doesn’t stop there, below is a sampling of just some of the many innovative ways to use pesto sauce:

Dish up a new twist on classic sides: Prepare a mix of extra virgin olive oil, one clove of raw or roasted garlic (sliced), and two or three tablespoons of DeLallo Simply Pesto; pour over warm (or cold) boiled potatoes, or drizzle over simple roasted potatoes. 

Ditch the mayo: As a healthy alternative to traditional American-style potato salad, instead of mayonnaise, use a bit of pesto combined with a small amount of balsamic and white vinegar

Season steamed, grilled, or roasted vegetables: Pesto can be a great base for preparing different sauces for cooked veggies. For this usage, its strong “carattere” (character) and dense consistency should be diluted with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper—making it a perfect topping for mild vegetables, such as green beans, cauliflower, or zucchini; or drizzling over steamed greens, such as chard or chicory. 

Dress your salads: By simply adding balsamic vinegar and other herbs—such as thyme, tarragon, or marjoram—you can make a delicious dressing for any fresh salad.

Make it a marinade:  You can prepare a delectable marinade by mixing pesto with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Allow this “infusion” to rest in a bottle or glass vase; it can last quite a long time in or out of the fridge. You can either use it to marinate the meat before grilling, or just drizzle it on top of the chicken before serving. 

Mix up your chicken salad: You can make a great variation of your favorite chicken salad simply by substituting an olive oil–thinned pesto for the mayo. 

On grilled shrimp, sea bass, or salmon:  In Italy, the classic seasoning for grilled fish is a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley and sometimes chopped garlic, but you can add one or two teaspoons of DeLallo Simply Pesto to this traditional mixture for a special touch for your grilled fish. 

• Stuffed meat and poultry: Pesto can be a great addition to your favorite ingredients for stuffing meat. For example, you can prepare a wonderful “fusion” version of Chicken Kiev, by substituting pesto for the usual herbs in the center. Or, spread a small amount of pesto inside your rolled chicken or turkey cutlets, or in Involtini di vitello (veal rolls). Also, for a special treat, add a bit of pesto to your meatloaf or meatball recipe. 

White pizza: When the pizza comes out of the oven, dot it with pesto … it’s delicious. (For more elaborate variations, try adding mozzarella, feta or ricotta cheese, fresh tomatoes, and olives before popping the pizza into the oven.) 

With mozzarella, feta and other cheeses: Pesto marries beautifully with white delicate cheeses—accompanied with olives, fresh or sundried tomatoes and/or roasted peppers, if you like. For more intense cheeses, be sure to sample them first with the pesto to make sure[[wysiwyg_imageupload:136:]] you like the combination; if so, serve with bruschette for a tasty appetizer.

With boiled or poached eggs, or in omelets: Top sliced boiled eggs with a small spoonful of pesto and serve with toast. If you like poached eggs, try this unusual variation of Eggs Benedict: substitute an olive-oil diluted pesto for the hollandaise sauce.

Mix with butter to give a final touch to just about any dish: Leave ½ lb of butter out of the fridge until soft. Add four tablespoons of DeLallo Pesto alla Genovese, a few drops of lemon, salt and freshly ground pepper. Form into a cylindrical shape with your hands, and place on a sheet of aluminum foil; gently twist both ends closed; roll the cylinder on a flat surface a few times to get a nice even shape. Seal the aluminum with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Now your “pesto butter” is ready when you need it: Just slice off a chunk whenever you want to add special flavor to just about any preparation—steak, fish, baked potatoes, pasta dishes … the list is endless.

Using Pesto in the Kitchen (Recipes):

PASTA & RISOTTO:

SANDWICHES & BRUSCHETTA:

PIZZAS & BREADS

DRESSINGS, SALADS & DIPS