Add a taste of the garden to dinner with pesto

Go beyond the traditional basil version with a variety of other herbs, nuts to bring a flair to meals


Pesto is a classic food that combines fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and oil to bring a taste of the garden to your plate.

It’s a versatile food as well, used as a spread for sandwiches or as a sauce. It can be combined with yogurt or sour cream for a dip or used instead of tomato sauce on a pizza.

Instead of garlic bread, spread pesto onto crusty bread and toast or stir it into bread dough for fragrant dinner rolls. If you don’t want to heat up the house, just mix the pesto with some softened butter and spread on rolls or fresh bread.

You can also thin pesto with a little oil or vinegar to create a quick vinaigrette for summer salads or whisk it into buttermilk for an Italian version of ranch dressing.

Instead of butter, use a dab of pesto to garnish vegetables or top a baked potato.

If you prefer pesto in your main dish, it can be used to top and season grilled steak, pork chops, chicken and fish. You can also season meatloaf or meatballs with pesto.

Or garnish a soup — perhaps a tomato or potato soup — with pesto for a unique taste.

There are some who swear that the best way to make pesto is by hand, chopping the ingredients into a fine paste, while others rely on a food processor to do the chopping for them. Either method is fine.

If you make more pesto than you plan on eating immediately, think about freezing some for the winter when basil isn’t fresh for the picking.

Just fill the compartments in an ice cube tray with pesto, cover with a thin layer of olive oil and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down on the wrap so air doesn’t seep in. Freeze completely, then remove the “cubes” and pop into zipper-lock freezer bags. The pesto should be good for six months or so.

While summertime brings an abundance of basil, the traditional herb featured in pesto, don’t be afraid to try other herbs instead. Break the rules and make it with arugula, parsley, or even pumpkin seed, cilantro or avocado.

Following are recipes featuring pesto from

Pasta With Pesto, Shrimp and Cured Ham

1 thin slice of garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
4 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound pasta such as gemelli or fusilli
1 ounce thinly sliced Speck, country ham, or prosciutto, chopped
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Freshly ground black pepper

    Blend garlic, nuts, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 ice cube in a blender on low speed to a coarse paste. Add basil, 1 cup oil and 2 tablespoons ice water and purée until basil is almost incorporated. Add Parmesan and Pecorino cheese and blend to combine. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface of pesto.
    Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
    Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook Speck or ham about two minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook about three minutes, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through. Remove from heat and toss in pesto, pasta and pasta cooking liquid.
    Pesto can be made three days ahead. Top with a little oil, cover and chill.

Roast Fingerling Potatoes With Chive Pesto

1-3/4 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup, packed, chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup, packed, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    In a medium bowl, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil to coat, then season generously with salt and pepper. Spread potato halves in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast potatoes in a 425-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and golden brown.
    Combine 1/2 cup chives, parsley, almonds and garlic in a processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add remaining oil through feed tube and process until incorporated. Transfer chive pesto to a small bowl. Stir in lemon juice, then 2 tablespoons water. Season pesto with salt and pepper.
    Transfer potatoes to a platter. Drizzle with half of pesto and sprinkle with additional chopped chives. Serve with remaining pesto.

Horseradish Pumpkin Seed Pesto

1/2 cup unsalted, roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas
2 tablespoons grated peeled horseradish
2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup or more olive oil
Kosher salt
    Finely grind pumpkin seeds and horseradish in a food processor. Add cilantro and lime juice, then pulse until cilantro is finely chopped. With motor running, stream in 1/4 cup oil and process just to combine. Add more oil if pesto is too thick. Season with salt.
    Pesto can be made five days ahead of time. Cover and chill.


Spaghetti With Tomato Walnut Pesto

2/3 cup walnuts
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces spaghetti
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
    Place  walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, tossing once, until slightly darkened. Let cool.
    Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet, then season with salt. Broil, tossing once, for five to seven minutes, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid. Let cool.
    Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in 1/3 cup oil. Process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.
    Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
    Transfer pasta to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.
    Divide among bowls. Top with more Parmesan cheese and black pepper and drizzle with oil.
    Pesto can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.


Fridge-Dive Pesto Pasta

1/2 red onion, quartered through root end
8 cups lightly packed torn mixed greens and tender herbs
Kosher salt
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta)
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 garlic cloves, smashed
12 ounces tripoline or mafaldine pasta or fusilli
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    Cook onion and mixed greens and herbs in a large pot of boiling salted water about two minutes, until tender. Using a spider or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool down as quickly as possible. Drain and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid, then press between a double layer of paper towels to remove as much remaining liquid as possible. Reserve pot with cooking liquid.
    Process 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a food processor until finely ground. Add onion mixture and 1/4 cup ricotta salata and process until a coarse paste forms. With motor running, stream in 3 tablespoons oil and process, adding water by the tablespoonful if needed, until pesto is very smooth.
    Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add garlic and cook five minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. Add pesto and cook about one minute, stirring, until sauce looks like most of the moisture has been cooked out.
    Bring reserved pot of cooking liquid to a boil and cook pasta about three minutes less than package directions, stirring occasionally, until very al dente.
    Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with pesto and add 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing, until each strand of pasta is coated. Remove from heat, add butter and toss to combine.
    Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more sesame seeds and remaining ricotta salata and drizzle with oil.

Roast Carrots With Carrot Top Pesto

3 pounds small carrots with tops
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons macadamia nuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    Trim carrot tops, leaving some stems attached. Measure 2 cups carrot tops and set aside. Reserve any remaining carrot tops for another use.
    Toss carrots and vegetable oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a  400-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, tossing occasionally, until carrots are golden brown and tender. Let cool.
    Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor until a coarse paste forms. Add basil, Parmesan, and reserved carrot tops and process until a coarse puree forms. Add olive oil and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
    Serve carrots with pesto.
    Pesto can be made one day ahead. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface and chill. Carrots can be roasted four hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.


Oven Risotto With Kale Pesto

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small garlic clove
1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 cups torn Tuscan kale leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated

    Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Let cool.
    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook five to eight minutes, stirring often, until softened and translucent. Stir in rice and season with salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes, stirring, until some grains are translucent.
    Add wine, bring to a simmer and cook about three minutes, until pan is almost dry. Add 2 cups very hot water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake in 350-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed but rice is still starchy in the center.
    Pulse garlic and half the walnuts in a food processor until very finely ground. Add parsley, chives, half the kale, remaining oil and 1/4 cup cold water. Process until smooth, then season pesto with salt and pepper.
    Set saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup very hot water and cook rice about three minutes, stirring constantly, until it’s tender but still has some bite and sauce is creamy. Stir in pesto, butter, three-quarters of Parmesan, and remaining kale. Adjust consistency with water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with remaining walnuts and cheese.

Spicy Lamb Meatballs With Raisin Pesto

1 large egg
1/2 cup panko
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, plus 1 cup parsley leaves with tender stems
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
2 garlic cloves
1 pound ground lamb
2 cups mint leaves
3 tablespoons golden raisins
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, for serving  

Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°.
    Combine egg, panko, cumin, red pepper flakes, turmeric, finely chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Finely grate 1 garlic clove into bowl. Add lamb and mix with hands until evenly distributed.
    Gently roll lamb mixture into 1-1/2-inch-diameter balls (about the size of a golf ball). Place on a rimmed baking sheet, spacing evenly apart, then bake in the upper third of a 425-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
    Purée mint, raisins, parsley leaves with tender stems, remaining garlic clove, remaining oil, and a big pinch of salt in a blender until smooth. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
    Spread yogurt over plates and divide pesto and meatballs on top.
    Pesto can be made two days ahead, covered and chilled. Meatballs can be formed two months ahead and frozen on baking sheet until firm, then transferred to a freezer bag and keep frozen.




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