23 Delicious Ways to Use Pesto (2024)

summer

Christine Gallary

Christine GallaryFood Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and CHOW.com. She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.

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Jan Valdez

Jan Valdez

updated about 2 hours ago

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23 Delicious Ways to Use Pesto (1)

Fresh basil pesto is a delightful summer treat. While we love it tossed with fresh pasta, of course, we’ve also found that this fresh and flavorful sauce can be a versatile ingredient in all sorts of other dishes!

While you can buy tasty pesto at the store, it’s one of the easiest sauces to make at home, especially in the summertime when basil is plentiful and cheap. You can add a bit of heavy cream for a creamy pesto sauce or go dairy-free for a vegan pesto.

And while summertime brings an abundance of basil, the traditional herb in pesto, don’t be afraid to try other herbs or greens instead. Break the rules and make it with garlic scapes, sun-dried tomatoes, or walnuts and arugula. Yes, it’s technically not a true Italian pesto anymore, but since it’s summer, I think we can relax the rules and just focus on making a tasty sauce instead.

Mix pesto into creamy dips, use it as a pizza sauce, spread it on sandwiches, add it to your favorite salads, toss it with roasted summer vegetables, and use it as a sauce for grilled chicken or grilled fish.

From pastas and salads to pizzas and savory tarts, here are 23 ways to use pesto this summer.

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Pesto Pizza

Upgrade pizza night with a tasty pesto base. Homemade pesto is delicious and a snap to put together, but it’s not necessary for this recipe. Any store-bought pesto you enjoy can be used here.

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Pesto Pasta Salad

Nothing says summer like tendrils of pasta, fresh mozzarella pearls, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy cucumber dressed in a basil pesto sauce. It's the perfect pasta salad for summer potlucks.

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Trenette al Pesto

Creamy tender, diced potatoes and crisp green beans add additional layers of texture and freshness combined all together in a dish that is another comforting way to enjoy flavorful pesto. 1 cup of store-bought basil pesto can be used in place of the homemade pesto in the recipe.

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Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

If you love a good basil pesto pasta and have a soft spot for creamy sauces, you are going to love pesto chicken pasta. An easy side dish, like a simple arugula salad, a fresh tomato salad, or some garlicky broccolini, rounds out this pasta dinner.

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Pesto Salmon with Burst Tomatoes

Your favorite store-bought pesto jazzes up salmon fillets in this flavor-packed skillet dinner.

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Caprese Couscous Salad

This quick, almost no-cook side dish features couscous, pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes, and mini mozzarella balls.

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One-Pot Pesto Tortellini with Broccoli

Here, a few smart cooking tricks elevate just 3 ingredients into a spectacular one-pot meal that really, truly wows.

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Pesto and Goat Cheese Tarte Soleil

This pull-apart puff pastry tart, stuffed with garlicky pesto and creamy goat cheese, looks fancy, but is secretly a breeze to pull off.

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Pesto Chicken Salad

Juicy, shredded chicken is tossed with a creamy combo of fresh pesto and mayo, and studded with sun-dried tomatoes for extra richness.

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Veggie Supreme Pizza

With a pesto-meets-ricotta white sauce and just enough mozzarella and Parmesan to hold the veggies in place, this pizza also hits all the right notes for a delicious, veggie-packed dinner in every single bite.

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Pesto Tortellini with Roasted Vegetables

An easy 5-ingredient recipe for cheese tortellini with pesto and a mix of roasted vegetables.

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Vegetable Pesto Puff Pastry Tart

Layers of veggies, feta cheese, and pesto sit atop buttery puff pastry.

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Baked potatoes get a summertime twist thanks to creamy ricotta, juicy tomatoes, and vibrant basil pesto.

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Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

Tender shells and sharp cheddar keep it classically comforting, while a thick swirl of bright, vibrant pesto keeps it light with a sweet, herby punch.

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30-Minute Pesto Chicken with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

A quick and easy recipe for chicken breasts coated in pesto and baked with cherry tomatoes.

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Summer Vegetable Grain Salad

A light, wholesome quinoa summer salad packed with veggies and tossed in a pesto vinaigrette.

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Lemon-Garlic Whipped Feta with Pesto

An extra-creamy dip that's ideal served with pita chips, crostini, or vegetable crudité and a bottle of your favorite rosé.

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Mediterranean Tuna and White Bean Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

An easy recipe for an Italian-inspired tuna and white bean salad with fennel, radicchio, and arugula in a tangy pesto vinaigrette. It’s the ultimate no-cook dinner for these warm summer nights.

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Easy Oven-Baked Risotto

Move your pot to the oven to serve creamy restaurant-style risotto with a fraction of the effort. Our version has crispy pancetta, pesto, and peas for a savory bite.

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French Bread Pesto Chicken Pizza

Layered on crispy French bread with fresh cherry tomatoes, sautéed chicken, and mozzarella cheese, it’s probably one of the fastest things (like 20 minutes fast!) to make for dinner that everyone at the table will be on board with.

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One-Pot Creamy Mushroom Pesto Pasta

In this 20-minute weeknight dinner, vibrant pesto and creamy mascarpone cheese combine to create a silky sauce that clings to the noodles.

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Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Homemade creamy pesto is a fast, flavorful way to upgrade mild-mannered spaghetti squash. It’s great as a super-fast summer main dish, or served alongside your favorite protein.

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Pesto Cream Tteokbokki

Chewy Korean rice cakes doused in a creamy, herbaceous-meets-spicy pesto sauce with bits of bacon and tomato.

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23 Delicious Ways to Use Pesto (2024)

FAQs

What else can you do with pesto? ›

  • 1 / 23. Pesto Pizza. Upgrade pizza night with a tasty pesto base. ...
  • 2 / 23. Pesto Pasta Salad. ...
  • 3 / 23. Trenette al Pesto. ...
  • 4 / 23. Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta. ...
  • 5 / 23. Pesto Salmon with Burst Tomatoes. ...
  • 6 / 23. Caprese Couscous Salad. ...
  • 7 / 23. One-Pot Pesto Tortellini with Broccoli. ...
  • 8 / 23. Pesto and Goat Cheese Tarte Soleil.

How to use up a jar of pesto? ›

Use it as a spread for sandwiches, paninis and crostini toast appetizers. Drizzle on caprese salads of fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Bake up a pesto pizza or a colorful Italian-inspired flatbread. Finish grilled meats and seafood, roasted vegetables and breakfast eggs.

How do Italians use pesto? ›

Italian Tradition

Pesto is the perfect sauce to enjoy with a dish of trofie (the traditional Ligurian short pasta), lasagna, potato gnocchi or as a topping for a bowl of minestrone. It can be mixed into tomato sauce to enhance the flavor of pasta dishes or used with fish fillets to make them more appetizing.

Can I freeze pesto? ›

While you can freeze pesto in full-batch amounts, it is also convenient to freeze pesto in smaller portions to be used as quick flavor-enhancers (without being the full flavor force of the dish)—swirl in soups or stir into salad dressings, or add a dollop to a bowl of rice.

How long does pesto last in the fridge? ›

Pesto will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you've stored it in the freezer, it will last for 6 months. When you're ready to use frozen pesto, thaw it overnight in the fridge or place the container of pesto in a bowl of warm water for a quicker thawing time.

What does pesto taste best on? ›

Pesto can be used as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread, pizza sauce, an accompaniment to meat, fish, chicken and vegetables, in salads, as a dip and much more. Find plenty of recipes that use pesto here.

How do you upgrade jar pesto? ›

Here are 14 ways to add more flavor to store-bought pesto.
  1. Upgrade with a drizzle of olive oil. ...
  2. Bring a touch of heat. ...
  3. Pour in a bit of acid. ...
  4. Shape it with heavy cream. ...
  5. Integrate some green vegetables or fresh herbs. ...
  6. Incorporate additional nuts or seeds. ...
  7. Swirl in flavored salt. ...
  8. Scoop in a small amount of mayonnaise.
Mar 31, 2024

Do you warm up pesto before you put it over spaghetti? ›

PESTO SHOULD NEVER BE “COOKED”. If you cook Pesto Sauce, you change the make up of the fresh basil and cause it to turn darker in color. It is best to warm it up and use it at room temperature. If it needs to be thinned out, you can do so by adding a little water, chicken stock, cream or white wine.

Can you eat pesto straight from the jar? ›

Almost all the jarred pestos you find in the supermarket will have been pasteurised to not only ensure that they can last a long time unopened, but so they are perfectly safe to eat straight from the jar. There is no need to heat pesto, although too many people do.

Which pasta is best with pesto? ›

This fresh and fragrant pasta sauce is served uncooked, so choose a pasta shape that won't overwhelm it. Similar to oil-based sauces, pesto is served best with longer cuts of pasta, like the corkscrew shape of Fusilli. Pesto works best with Bucatini, Capellini, thinner Spaghettini, and Fettuccine.

What is the difference between pesto and pesto genovese? ›

While traditional pesto alla Genovese typically includes non-vegetarian cheeses (including Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo), pesto by nature invites interpretation - feel free to substitute the traditional cheese for a vegetarian alternative.

What is the most popular pesto in Italy? ›

Still, the most famous pesto—and the one we tend to think of when we hear the word—is pesto alla genovese.

What's good with pesto? ›

My favorite thing to do with all of those fresh herbs (aside from sprinkle them on everything) is to make pesto! It's especially great for lazy summertime cooking. I like to dollop it on grilled vegetables, pasta, spaghetti squash, salads, eggs, toasted bread, pizza, sandwiches… you get the idea.

Will pesto turn brown in the freezer? ›

Will pesto change color after freezing? If the pesto is exposed to air, yes, it will change color but not flavor. That's why we suggest topping it with a little extra olive oil after putting it in your freezer container.

Can you freeze pesto in ziploc bags? ›

Spread the pesto in a thin layer. Freeze. 2- Remove from freezer and break pesto into pieces. 3- Place in a zip lock bag and freeze!

Why is pesto so expensive? ›

Its scarcity, plus the fact that the plants are picked roots, soil, and all to ensure that only juvenile leaves make it into pesto, makes it extraordinarily expensive and something that only premium, artisan pesto makers can justify using.

Can you just eat pesto? ›

Yes, pesto can be used straight from the jar and doesn't require cooking or heating.

Should I add anything to pesto? ›

Add a pinch of salt if the basil tastes too bitter or the pesto needs more zing. Add more Parmesan if you'd like a creamier/cheesier pesto. If desired, you can thin out the pesto with more olive oil.

How do you eat leftover pesto pasta? ›

You already know we don't normally condone heating pesto on the hob, but in the case of leftover pesto-pasta, a quick sauté in a wok or saucepan with a little vegetable oil is perfectly fine with us.

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