Let The Possibilities Inspire You: Pesto Is More Than An Easy Sauce

Pesto: Don’t Just Think Basil
I’ll never forget my amazement when, about 20 years ago, I ordered a pizza that was described as a “tomato pesto pizza.” When it came to the table, I was baffled. There were no visible tomatoes, and the “pesto” was red! I expected a traditional spread made predominantly of basil, but it was a sundried tomato pesto. So, I learned that the word pesto is derived from pestâ- “to pound” or “to crush.” The options for key ingredients are numerous, but many of these alternative pesti can be quite expensive—as much as $13 per pound! Whipping it up yourself is quicker, fresher, and friendly to any budget.

There Are Dozens Of Pesto Variations Waiting To Be Created

You can set out to make a specific pesto with store-bought ingredients or use food you have at home—it’s a great way to turn leftovers into an attractive dish. Did you forget about that bunch of spinach or arugula you purchased at the farmers market? Make a pesto out of the greens. Are you down to just staples in your pantry? Sundried tomatoes turn into an elegant, quick pesto. That frozen bag of walnuts you keep forgetting about? Whirl them together for a nut pesto.

Practical Pesto Applications

Take advantage of pesto’s flexible nature. It can be used as a spread to liven up sandwiches, pizzas, and quesadillas, or mixed into a quick soup for dimension of flavor. Added to pasta, it creates an elegant flair (see recipe in my tomato post). Pesto even acts as a foundation for quick hors d’oeuvres. Think of pesto as one of the building blocks of your culinary repertoire.

Prolong Freshness

When working with traditional basil pesto and other “green” pesti, exposure to air should be limited, as the greens oxidize. When storing in the refrigerator, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the spread before sealing a container (mixing the oil in before your next use), or press plastic wrap onto the spread to form a plastic skin before covering.

Freeze For Future Use

Pesto freezes well. Divide the paste into an ice cube tray, protect with plastic, and freeze into cubes. Store the segments in a plastic bag (remember to squeeze the air out of the bag when sealing), and have individual portions ready to add to any dish.

For three of my favorite pesto recipes, click through our slideshow!

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