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While some Italian sauces, like Bolognese, marinara and puttanesca, are best enjoyed after hours of slow and low cooking on the stove, pesto can be made in mere minutes, and, in fact, requires no cooking at all. Most traditional recipes call for just a handful of fresh basil, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil, but the variations on classic pesto are endless and can made by swapping in other herbs and nuts. After blending together your favorite mix of ingredients in a food processor, spoon the vibrant mixture over pasta, spread it onto pizza or drizzle it atop grilled meats to turn everyday dishes into dressed-up meals. For a deliciously easy dip, try serving pesto instead of ranch dressing alongside a platter of vegetables, or smear it onto sandwiches in place of mayonnaise or mustard. Check out Food Network’s top-five pesto recipes below from Bobby, Ina, Giada and more chefs to find five-star takes on this summertime staple.
5. Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro Pesto Pizza — Bobby opts for a duo of fragrant cilantro and parsley to form the base of his pesto, spread onto homemade pizza dough and topped with creamy mozzarella and tender shrimp before the entire pie is grilled.
4. Pesto Pork with Polenta — Food Network Magazine lets pesto do triple duty in its all-in-one meal: as the rub for the lean pork tenderloin, the boost of flavor in the side of spinach and the finishing sauce alongside the roasted meat.
3. Pasta, Pesto and Peas — After making a traditional pesto, Ina blends the mixture with spinach, a splash of lemon juice and mayonnaise, then mixes the puree with two shapes of pasta, peas and crunchy pine nuts to create a picnic-ready pasta salad.
2. Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto — Chewy sun-dried tomatoes add a textured bite to Giada’s simple pesto, laced with Parmesan cheese and tossed with pasta for a family-friendly 25-minute meal. Click the play button on the video below to watch her make it.
1. Basil Pesto — A tried-and-true sauce that takes only five quick minutes to prepare, Food Network Kitchens’ go-to pesto can be enjoyed on the spot or frozen and saved for a quick weeknight meal.