If you have a half-used jar of pesto lingering around at the back of your fridge or you have just whizzed up a batch after a glut of kale or basil somehow found its way into your kitchen, you may just be left wondering “what on earth can I do with this?!” Well, wonder no more. Here are five quick, simple and delicious things you can do with pesto.
What is pesto?
Unless you have been sleeping under a rock for the last decade or neglecting your taste buds, I’m sure you have heard of Pesto. Pesto is a delicious (IMHO) sauce made from crushed basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese which is traditionally served with pasta. But did you know – pesto, does not have to be green! Pesto actually just means “pounded” coming from the Italian word pestata and relating to the ingredients traditionally being pounded or crushed in a pestle and mortar before it was, as we know it, blended in a mixer… according to bon appétit food director Carla Lalli where, in this video, she explains more about the origins of pesto while recreating a creamy and garlicky white pesto.
The green pesto, that we have grown to know, love and smother on, well, everything is actually called Pesto Genovese which originated in the Northern region of Italy – Genoa. Hence the name Genovese.
How to store?
Regardless of the type of pesto you make – the more important question is, how do you store it? This ubiquitous product found in the cupboards of students and master-chefs alike has become a staple ingredient in everyday cooking and once you have your hands on one, you want to preserve its goodness for as long as possible.
A good-quality store-bought pesto should last for 1-3 weeks in the fridge but should be consumed within 5-7 days once opened. Of course, this depends on a number of factors and varies from brand to brand. We know about white and green pesto, but not brown, so keep an eye on it, when it starts to turn brown due to being exposed to the air – it’s no longer recommended to eat. (Please read the instructions on individual products for manufactures recommendations)
Not got enough time? Why not spoon some into an ice-cube tray and pop into the freezer? Transfer the pesto-cubes, once frozen into an air-tight bag or container and place back in the freezer. These should keep for around 3-4 months and can be defrosted per portion, by stirring into hot pasta or rice, or placing inside a jar and submerging the jar into hot water.
Store-bought V’s Home-made
There are so many benefits to making your own pesto. But there are also some downfalls too. Including, the price. Pine nuts are the main culprit here due to their expensive cost, with its pal Parmesan not far behind. For an average recipe for a classic pesto, you could be looking at already doubling the cost of your best-known branded jar on these two ingredients alone.
So, why make your own? Well, the flavour for one. Being able to control the ratios of garlic, cheese, and oil to your preferences can be a huge factor in the making of this product. A strong punch of garlic can be favoured by some but insulting to others. Plus the smell of freshly made pesto whizzed up in the kitchen with an aromatic whiff of basil mixed with toasted pine nuts is almost indescribable. Topped off with an almost unrecognisable difference in the texture between the two – with the latter rocking a creamier, nuttier and of course, fresher mouth-feel and fragrance. Plus the store-bought variants have been known to include unnecessary preservatives and could potentially be hiding a whole heap of nasties. Making your own means you know exactly what has gone in and you can swap any ingredients out for ones you fancy such as removing the basil for kale – which you can learn how to make here.
But what else can I do with pesto?
Pesto is known for being BFF’s with pasta, but it can also elevate so many other dishes. Stir into rice dishes, top pizza or bruschetta bases, fold into savoury muffin mixes or swap for mayonnaise for a unique twist on some classics.
Go beyond the pasta and make some of these delicious dishes.