February 18, 2018
Pesto Branches Out
This classic Italian sauce can spur countless innovations, from different ingredients—cilantro, anyone?—to entirely new uses as a condiment, topping, and more.
The traditional definition of pesto still stands: This deceptively simple but delicious sauce—originally from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy—is made with crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, blended with olive oil. It’s used on pasta, of course, but also stirred into soups and used to flavor vegetables and fish.
However, this vibrant green condimento practically begs to be tinkered with, by using walnuts instead of pine nuts, substituting parsley for basil. And its uses have also evolved into items as varied as salad dressing and cream cheese, steak topping and bread ingredient.
• Pesto appears on 29.7% of U.S. restaurant menus, its use having grown 7.2% since 2013 (Datassential).
In recent years, pesto has been completely transformed, evolving into a multipurpose specialty that trades on the popularity and familiarity with its name. It’s being made with sun dried tomatoes, kale, cilantro, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, Asiago cheese, goat cheese, almonds, arugula…. Some of these translations speak to other cultures, such as a cilantro and pepita pesto for Mexican items. Pesto is also being used in a variety of innovative new ways to help create signature menu specialties.
Here are 10 easy ways to use pesto:
1. Dollop on a crouton and float in a bowl of soup
2. Add to muffins, scones and other savory baked goods
3. Mix into scrambled eggs, quiche or frittata
4. Offer a grilled cheese-pesto sandwich
5. Heat it up with Sriracha or another hot sauce
6. Add to meatball and meatloaf mixtures
7. Use to top a burger or grilled chicken sandwich
8. Add to vegetarian dishes for a flavor and protein pop
9. Mix with mayonnaise as a dip for French fries or chilled shrimp
10. Use as a topping/sauce for pizza