Julie Kelly's Blog
It’s that time of the season when the little basil plant you purchased a month ago now threatens to overtake your patio and make the side of your house look like the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. Making pesto is a great way to use abundant herbs like basil. Like so many yummy sauces, pesto originated in Italy and is the essence of simplistic, authentic cooking. By incorporating just a few basic ingredients like herbs, cheese, nuts and olive oil, you can create a flavor-packed mixture with endless culinary purposes. While basil pesto is the most popular version, you can experiment with other herbs and greens such as mint, spinach and arugula.
A batch of pesto can complement a variety of preparations from appetizers to vegetables to entrées:
- Serve pesto with a wedge of cheese, olives, prosciutto and crackers for a perfect cocktail hour(s) hors d’oeuvre;
- Smear a small amount of pesto on grilled fish or chicken for an added flavor boost;
- Use in pasta dishes instead of standard red sauce;
- Mix with mayonnaise to create a pesto salad dressing;
- Drizzle over vegetables like steamed asparagus, grilled zucchini, roasted new potatoes or freshly sliced tomatoes;
- Here’s my new favorite summertime “bite”: Scoop out the center of cherry tomatoes and salt lightly. Slice in half several small, fresh mozzarella balls and stuff one half into each tomato. Top with a small dollop of fresh pesto for a delicious and easy appetizer.
Make plenty of pesto and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The following recipe is for a summertime pasta dish that can be served either as a dinner entrée or a unique pasta salad at room temperature.