7 Recipes That Unlock the Flavor Potential of Pesto

Basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and a bit of cheese — what is there not to like about pesto? The creamy, green Italian sauce is commonly associated with pasta dishes, but its potential extends well beyond the reach of noodles. Pesto can be that missing ingredient you need for a superb sandwich, or the tomato sauce alternative your pizza is calling for. Keep reading to see 7 ways you can use pesto in non-pasta dishes.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

1. Grilled Goat Cheese Pizza With Pesto

Starting off with PBS, you’ll be making your own pesto to spread over a grilled pizza, which you’ll garnish with your favorite toppings. Tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms were originally used, and caramelized onions would be another spectacular pairing for the goat cheese.

Ingredients:

Pesto

  • 3 cups lightly packed basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium/high until toasty)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pizza

  • 12-inch pizza dough
  • 5 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • Toppings of choice

Directions: First, make your pesto. Combine basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and two tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor and process until just slightly chunky. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil in a steady stream. Add lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, sea salt, and pepper and continue processing until smooth.

To prepare your pizza, heat up your grill and spray the grates well with non-stick spray. Also, spray the back of a cookie sheet well with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface to roughly about 12 inches diameter. Carefully transfer the pizza dough to the back of the greased cookie sheet and carry outside to the grill. Gently lift the dough off the back of the cookie sheet and onto the grill. Close the grill and cook for about 5 minutes, checking occasionally. The dough should be starting to bubble up and if you check the bottom, it should be looking a little charred.

Slide the dough off the grill and back onto the back of the cookie sheet. Flip pizza so the charred side is on top then spread pesto all over the top. Add toppings of your choice followed by soft mounds of goat cheese. Carefully slide dough back onto the grill, close top, and cook for another 5-6 minutes, checking often. When done, the crust should be puffy, the bottom slightly charred and the cheese melted. Slide your finished pizza back onto your cookie sheet, let cool, and slice up!

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Sautéed Chard With Pesto

Real Simple decided to top off greens with a green garnish in this side dish. Chard isn’t the only vegetable you can flavor with pesto though, you can pair it with green beans, or a variety of grilled vegetables too.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped and leaves torn
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions: Combine the pesto and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl; set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard stems, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add as many of the chard leaves as will fit and cook, tossing frequently and adding more leaves as there is room, until tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Drizzle the chard with the thinned pesto. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

3. Braided Pesto Bread

Pesto will end up swirled throughout a twisted homemade bread when you follow the recipe and instructions from Tablespoon. But don’t let “braided” or “homemade” discourage you. This isn’t an elaborate braid, and the recipe is simple that even yeast novices will feel confident attempting it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup skim milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 5 to 5½ cups bread flour
  • ⅔ cup pesto (for filling)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (for filling/top)

Directions: In a large bowl, combine water, olive oil, sugar, skim milk powder, salt, and instant yeast. Mix until well blended. Add in a cup of flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add in another cup of flour and beat until smooth.

Sprinkle half a cup of flour onto a flat surface and pour out the dough onto the counter. Knead and slowly add in more flour until the dough no longer sticks to the table, about 8-10 minutes. Add a little olive oil to a large bowl (about 1 tablespoon.) Pour dough into the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Using your fingers, flatten out one of the pieces. Roll out to a 9-by-14-inch rectangle. Spread half the pesto and ¼ of a cup Parmesan on top. Bring in the side by a half inch and then roll the dough like a jelly roll. Pinch the seam closed. Take a sharp knife and cut down the center length wise. Open the jelly roll exposing the inside of the roll. Take the two cut pieces and braid them together with the cut side always facing up.

Place the braided bread into a greased 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough. Cover both loaves with plastic wrap or a tea towel and rest for an hour or until doubled in bulk. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Check the bread about 10 minutes before it’s finished — if it’s getting too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing or serving.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

4. Plum Tomato and Pesto Bread

You don’t need to make a homemade bread for a loaf full of pesto’s rich flavors. Kraft has the recipe you need when you’re craving a bread that has melted cheeses, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto spread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cut in half lengthwise
  • ¾ cup pesto
  • 6 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread, cut-sides up, on baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Spread bread halves evenly with pesto; top with remaining ingredients. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until cheeses are melted. Cut each bread piece into 12 slices. Serve warm.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

5. Steak Baguettes With Pesto Mayo

Substantial enough for dinner, the sandwiches from Cooking Light will have plenty of flavor thanks to a pesto and mayonnaise spread. These baguettes are a fantastic way to create a new meal out of leftover steak as well. It yields about 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-ounce) boneless beef sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick), trimmed
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated pesto sauce
  • 1 (12-ounce) piece white or whole-grain baguette, split in half horizontally
  • 1 cup packed baby arugula (about 1 ounce)
  • 3 (⅛-inch-thick) red onion slices
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise

Directions: Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Add steak to pan, and cook 2½ minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove the steak from pan, and let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak across grain into thin slices.

Combine mayonnaise and pesto, stirring until well blended. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over cut sides of bread. Layer bottom half of bread with arugula, red onion, steak, and tomato; top with top half of bread. Cut sandwich diagonally into 4 equal pieces.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

6. Smashed Pesto Potatoes

When you need a break from cheesy smashed potatoes, try this recipe from Food Network Magazine. It only takes about 30 minutes to prepare this dish which, like most potato sides, pairs wonderfully with a variety of meats.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds new potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • Fresh ricotta, or sour cream (to taste)

Directions: Bring potatoes to a boil in a pot of salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Melt butter and milk in the same pot; add pesto and the potatoes. Lightly smash with a potato masher. Top with fresh ricotta or sour cream.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

7. Pesto Cheesy Chicken Rolls

Roll your pesto into boneless chicken breasts with a bit of cheese and you’ll easily earn high marks for the meal’s presentation. AllRecipes.com’s pesto chicken only needs three ingredients and a bit of cooking spray, but you may want to season the outside of the chicken with a bit of salt and pepper or Italian seasoning.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves — pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • 1 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 4 thick slices mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pesto sauce onto each flattened chicken breast. Place one slice of cheese over the pesto. Roll up tightly, and secure with toothpicks. Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until chicken is nicely browned and juices run clear.

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