An Italian staple, pesto sauce usually begins with a simple mix of ingredients. A little fresh basil, some olive oil, a handful of pine nuts and you’ve got a delicious and quick pasta sauce the whole family will love. With fresh produce all around, there’s no better time than summer to try out some of these vibrant and easy variations on your basic pesto and pasta. Crunched for time? Start with your favorite jarred pesto sauce to whip these dinners up even faster.
1. Basil Pesto
The original! Use this simple recipe as the basis for all your delicious summer pesto dinners. Quick tip – pour pesto into empty ice cube trays and freeze. You’ll have delicious homemade sauce at a moment’s notice.
- 1 ½ – 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ½ – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In your food processor, pulse the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic until coarsely chopped. Drizzle the oil in, while the food processor is running, beginning with ½ cup and adding more, slowly, as needed until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over warm pasta of your choice and enjoy!
2. Bacon Wrapped Pesto Stuffed Chicken
Crisp bacon keeps chicken breasts juicy and flavorful. Experiment with different kinds of bacon, prosciutto, and Serrano ham for an even bigger flavor punch.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup prepared basil pesto
- 8 slices of your favorite bacon
- ½ cup shredded Pecorino cheese
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven 400. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of pesto onto each chicken breast. Sprinkle shredded cheese over pesto sauce and roll up the breasts, keeping the sauce and cheese in the middle. Wrap two bacon slices around each breast, securing with toothpicks. Place in a baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes, or until juices run clear.
Tired of the same old pork chops? This recipe adapts well to the other white meat, as well. Simply butterfly a double cut pork chop, stuff with the pesto and cheese, wrap in thick-cut bacon, and bake until done.
3. Mediterranean Pesto Pizza
This dinner comes together in a flash, making it a much healthier (and delicious) alternative to delivery.
- 1 pre-made pizza crust
- ¾ cup basil pesto sauce
- 2 ripe Roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, drained and chopped
- ¼ of a small red onion, sliced very thin
- ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 375. Brush the edges of the pizza crust with a tiny amount of olive oil. While the oven is heating, layer remaining ingredients, in order, on the pizza crust. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, ensuring that the crust is crisp and the cheese is browned, but not burned.
4. Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes
The perfect side dish to chicken or fish, these tomatoes are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Choose firm tomatoes for best results.
- 10 small or 5 large fresh tomatoes, sliced in half
- ¾ cup basil pesto
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper
Scoop out the center of each tomato half, removing the seeds and juice. Season the inside with tiny pinch of salt and little black pepper. Fill the inside of each tomato half with 2 tablespoons of pesto. Place mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over sauce, and top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs. Bake in a 350 oven approximately 6 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are browned.
5. Pesto Tuna Salad Sandwiches
This simple and delicious sandwich will be the envy of every brown bag luncher at the office. You might want to bring enough to share.
- 2 cans chunk white tuna
- ¼ cup basil pesto sauce
- ½ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
- ¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- French bread rolls
- Romaine lettuce leaves
- Sliced green bell peppers
- Sliced tomato
In a bowl, combine tuna, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, red peppers, mayo, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Layer on warm French bread rolls with lettuce, green pepper and tomato slices.
This recipe is a fantastic way to dress up leftovers, as well. Simply substitute diced cook chicken, swordfish, or even pork for a tasty twist.
6. Pesto Grilled Cheese
Combine these bistro-inspired sandwiches with a rich and creamy tomato bisque for a weeknight dinner sure to hit the spot after a long day.
- 2 slices Texas toast or Italian bread
- 1 tablespoon softened (not melted) butter
- 1 ½ tablespoons pesto sauce
- 1 slice provolone cheese
- 1 slice mozzarella cheese
- 1 slice Swiss cheese
- 2 slices fresh tomato
- 3 leaves baby spinach
Butter one side of one slice of bread. Place the bread, buttered side down, in a skillet over medium low heat. Spoon half the pesto onto the exposed side of the bread, and top with the cheeses, spinach and tomato slices, layering so that there is either spinach or tomato between each slice of cheese. Butter the other slice of bread and place it on top. Once the bottom slice is golden brown, flip the sandwich over and allow the other side to brown and cheeses to melt. Serve with the remaining pesto on the side, for dipping.
Add a slice of turkey and some red and yellow bell pepper to turn this into an even heartier dinner sandwich.
7. Turkey Pesto Burgers
Fire up the grill for these burgers low on fat but big on flavor.
- 1 ½ pounds lean ground turkey
- 3 tablespoons basil pesto
- Sliced provolone cheese
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- ¾ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- Sliced Boston lettuce
- 4 Kaiser rolls
Mix together the ground turkey, 2 tablespoons of the pesto sauce, seasoned salt, bread crumbs, basil, Parmesan, and thyme. Form into 4 patties, and use your thumb to make a small dimple in the center of each. Grill over medium high heat until no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes per side.
Toast Kaiser rolls and spread bottoms with remaining pesto sauce. Top each burger patty with provolone cheese, Boston lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Serve on rolls.
If you have some recipes of your own, don’t forget to share them with us in the comments section.