Pesto, presto! 15 ways to use summer’s savory herb sauce

Pesto, presto! 15 ways to use summer’s savory herb sauce
Tara Bench,

Making pesto by the quart is the best sign of summer. The basil is plentiful in the garden or cheap in the store, and blended with a little garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil makes the most delicious sauce.

This divine sauce of summer last several weeks in the fridge. If I’m not using it all at once (which I rarely do because I make several cups at a time), I freeze it for use later. I mean, who gets tired of pesto? Not me!

Dollop your freshly made sauce in a clean ice cube tray, freeze, pop out into a zip lock bag and you have ready-to-go bits and bobs of the stuff. In these little portions it only takes a few minutes on the counter to thaw and it’s ready to use.

Find a Classic Pesto recipe on my blog, along with herby and fun variations like Arugula Hazelnut Pesto or Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. There are even brands in the store that taste fresh and delicious, if you forgo making it yourself. My Classic Pesto gets the most play for summer dishes. I stick to the basic ingredients and season it with a bit of kosher salt.

We all love pesto tossed generously on our pasta. Chop some fresh garden tomatoes and sprinkle on top and it’s the best dinner of summer. But I’m ready to rock your world and share 15 more things to do with your pesto.

1. Mix it into bread crumbs to make a crust for pork chops or chicken.

2. Make flavored croutons by tossing bread cubes with it before baking.

3. Stir into rice or mashed potatoes.

4. Add it to meatball, meat loaf or burger mixtures.

5. Scramble it into your eggs.

6. Thin with a little water and vinegar to make a salad dressing.

7. Mix with cream cheese and slather on a bagel.

8. Spread a thin layer on noodles when you’re making lasagna or stir it into the ricotta mixture.

9. Mix into bread dough, biscuit or muffin batter or smear on crescent rolls, roll up and bake. (Well, that was a bonus, like four ideas in one!)

10. Dollop on crostini and top with a cherry tomato for a quick hors d’oeuvre.

11. Add a little vinegar and use to marinate cheese and veggies for an antipasto plate.

12. Stir into crepe batter, then fill crepes with goat cheese.

13. Use in place of mayonnaise for potato or pasta salad.

14. Spread on rustic bread, sprinkle with cheese and broil until melted.

15. Stir into vegetable or tomato soup.

When you’ve exhausted these ideas, get creative and make up some more. Your summer is going to be so delicious. Mix it up with other easy and tasty summer dinners like The New Wedge Salad, my take on an iceburg lettuce wedge, or a quick open-faced sandwich meal like my Chicken and Gouda Melt Sandwich.

Happy eating.


Tara Bench has been a food editor for Martha Stewart and Ladies’ Home Journal. She contributes recipes to websites and cookbooks from her home in New York City. She has appeared on the “Today Show.” Find more great ideas on

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