Basil pesto is a popular Italian sauce known for its vibrant green colour and fresh, aromatic flavour. Traditional basil pesto typically consists of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts (though sometimes other nuts like walnuts are used), garlic, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Basil pesto is incredibly versatile and can be used in various culinary dishes. It serves as a flavourful sauce, condiment, or ingredient in numerous dishes. Here are 10 different uses for basil pesto:
- Pasta Sauce: Toss cooked pasta with basil pesto for a quick and delicious meal. Add some Parmesan cheese and pine nuts for extra flavour.
- Pesto Pizza: Use basil pesto as a base sauce for homemade pizza instead of traditional tomato sauce. Top it with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil.
- Sandwich Spread: Spread basil pesto on sandwiches or wraps for a burst of flavour. It works well with grilled vegetables, chicken, turkey, or cheese.
- Salad Dressing: Mix basil pesto with olive oil and vinegar to create a flavorful dressing for salads. It pairs well with mixed greens, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella.
- Pesto Panko: Crispy and satisfying, adding pesto into your panko breadcrumb mixtures makes for a deliciously creamy vibrant dish.
- Bruschetta Topping: Spread basil pesto on toasted bread slices and top with chopped tomatoes or fresh mozzarella for a tasty bruschetta appetisers.
- Vegetable Dip: Mix basil pesto with Greek yoghurt or sour cream to create a delicious dip for fresh vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers.
- Pesto Butter: Combine softened butter with basil pesto to make a flavorful spread for bread or to melt over grilled vegetables.
- Stuffed Mushrooms or Tomatoes: Use basil pesto as a filling for stuffed mushrooms or tomatoes before baking them in the oven. It adds a delicious savoury element.
- Pesto Mayo: Mix basil pesto with mayonnaise to create a tasty condiment for sandwiches, burgers, or as a dip.
To maintain its colour and flavour, store basil pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation. While classic basil pesto is made with basil leaves, there are variations using other herbs like coriander, parsley, or spinach, and alternative nuts like almonds or cashews. These variations offer unique flavours and adapt to dietary preferences or allergies.
Cauliflower Leaf Pesto
- Leaves from 1 large cauliflower about 5/6 leaves
- 50 g baby spinach
- 50 g rocket
- 25 g fresh basil leaves
- 50 g grated parmesan cheese
- 75 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 50 g toasted nuts such as almonds or pine nuts
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Wash the cauliflower leaves and dry them well. Remove any tough stems or veins and roughly chop the leaves.
- In a food processor, combine the chopped cauliflower leaves, spinach, rocket, basil, parmesan cheese, and toasted nuts. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and well combined.
- With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until the pesto is smooth and creamy.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Transfer the pesto to a jar or airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to use.