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.
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A fresh, no-cook sauce that takes just moments to prepare, basil pesto is a must-have summer sauce that’s most traditionally made with bunches of fresh basil leaves, plenty of garlic, crunchy pine nuts, mounds of Parmesan cheese and fruity olive oil. If you’ve never made homemade pesto before, start with Food Network Magazine’s Basil Pesto (pictured above) — it’s an easy, versatile recipe that the whole family will enjoy. Though pesto is often featured atop pasta noodles, it can shine in salads, soups, appetizers and more. Check out Food Network’s pesto-based recipes below and let us know your favorite way to enjoy pesto.
With a smooth sauce and rich flavor, Food Network Magazine’s five-star Pesto Cream Tortellini is a go-to weeknight dinner that features tender tortellini — pillow-like pasta that is stuffed with either meat or cheese — and good-for-you broccoli. Pick up a package of store-bought tortellini to save time in the kitchen.
Giada’s Farro With Coarse Pesto is an Italian-style salad that can be featured as a hearty side dish or healthful light lunch. When making the pesto, Giada processes the basil mixture just until it’s coarse — the uneven texture will stand up well to the hefty weight of the grains. Be sure to boil the farro in vegetable broth or water, instead of chicken broth, to maintain a meatless dish.
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Most people think of pesto as a summer recipe and it’s true that basic basil pesto is best in late summer when the basil is abundant and is at its most fragrant and flavorful. But at other times of the year, when the basil is not as sweet and a little more expensive, it can be fun to do a combination of basil and another herb, or swap out the basil altogether.
In fact, practically every ingredient in a traditional pesto is a viable option for swapping — the herb, the nuts and even the cheese. Its flexibility is what makes pesto the perfect pasta sauce for a weeknight dinner.
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