Anyone else HATE pesto as a kid? A weird green sauce. Come on, gross. In high school I was on vacation with a bff and her big Italian family (shout out to the Brunos!) and one evening they served up a huge platter of pesto pasta. I HAD to eat it to be polite. But, after the first bite, I was hooked. I had a Come-To-Pesto moment. I’ve been making this family recipe for 20-ish years now and I basically don’t mess with success.
Pesto is a beautiful and elegant sauce. While made from just a handful of ingredients, pesto is all about quality. Fresh basil, flavorful pine nuts, excellent cheese, high quality olive oil. Watch the scene in Salt Fat Acid Heat where Samin Nosrat makes pesto with Nonna Lidia the traditional method by hand with a mortar and pestle. It will forever shame you from buying pesto in a sad container at the grocery store.
I’m currently way into Sicilian olive oil. And buying P.D.O products from regions like Sicily supports these incredible regional ingredients and the people who grow or make them. You can find this one (affiliate link) at grocery stores like Whole Foods Market. Trust me, when you’re making something as flavor-packed as pesto, you want a really good olive oil.
One of the best parts about a great pesto sauce is the versatility. Sure, you can toss it with any kind of pasta and serve it hot or cold. But I also love pesto on grilled vegetables and chicken, dolloped onto mozzarella and tomatoes, or tossed in salads. You could plan to make this recipe for a specific meal or just to have in the fridge for whatever you come up with throughout the week. Here’s my summer roasted veggie recipe to pair with this pesto!
A favorite method for a reheat-and-serve pesto dish is to add a splash of cream. I’ll cook pasta and add pesto sauce and some cream to make a creamy basil pesto pasta dinner. You can add protein, cooked or grilled vegetables, additional fresh Parmesan cheese.
Out of basil and/or pine nuts? No problem! You can improvise on this recipe with a variety of greens and nuts. For basil, you can sub with greens like parsley, spinach, or kale. For pine nuts, I love swapping in almonds or walnuts.
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