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Pesto has to be one of the most versatile sauces in Italian cuisine. It can go on almost any food: meat, pasta, sandwiches, soup, vegetables…catch my drift? I’m not just speaking of the traditional basil pesto, although I do love the classics, but there are so many other varieties to be tasted and experimented with.
Beyond having many uses, it is low in calories and can be made many ways. Think about it. All it is is a bunch of fresh herbs that have been seasoned and combined in a food processor with some type of nut, maybe one or two accompanying ingredients and olive oil. Simple enough, right? So, why not change it up and step it up a few notches?
Sun-dried tomatoes are in a category all their own. They are a great addition to rich dishes to add some savoriness and acidity without being over-powering. Sun-dried tomato pesto is fabulous way to showcase a traditional cream sauce. Pour it over some al dente pasta for a real crowd-pleaser. The recipe is easy: take the traditional basil pesto recipe, and replace the pine nuts with a small can of sun-dried tomatoes. Once the cream sauce is made, stir in the pesto to taste and voila.
Appetizers are a great way to showcase your pesto. A classic case is using crostini. It acts as kind of a blank canvas that is sturdy enough to hold up to this delectable sauce. Try using Pea Pesto for this application. Again, replace the basil in the traditional recipe with ten ounces of peas. This type of pesto is also a great way to accent a main course of meal. It is a two-for-one special: vegetable and sauce in one.
I adore a great classic, but adding a new flavor never hurt. Citrus Pesto is great on fish. There is no better marriage. All it requires is using a little less olive oil and adding the juice and zest of citrus fruits: limes, lemons, and oranges. This is a thinner sauce, but it goes perfect with the delicate meat of the fish.
If you are dying to be daring, try this culinary creation: Dill-walnut pesto. It uses dill instead of basil, and walnuts instead of pine nuts. Along with the olive oil, mix in some lemon juice and red onion to add some zing to this sauce. This goes great over rotisserie chicken or a chicken sandwich…or both!
Best of Pesto
This is just to show a sampling of the many variations that are possible, and there is always more than one way to do it. There is a great deal of mileage to be gotten from pesto, and these are just a few suggestions on how to begin experimenting. So, take that blank canvas of a meal and paint on the pesto.
This piece was composed by Timothy Regan, a freelance author, artist and blogger who focuses on cooking, foreign cuisine, food & diet, nutritional science, cooking utensils like the Meat Grinder, and other related matters.
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