Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oh, For The Love Of Pesto

Do you love Italian food, but are tired of the same old red sauce? Do you want a spread to put on your after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches that has a little 'kick'? Would you like something to make the boring old chicken dinners more exciting? Is green your favorite color? :) If so, then I've got a recipe for you-pesto sauce! It's usually found in Italian food, but can be used in other ways. While it doesn't really matter what your favorite color is, adding pesto (even just a touch) can make boring dishes into dinners your whole family will love!

Here's a basic recipe-

1 ½ cups chopped pine nuts (you can also use walnuts, Brazil nuts or most any other kind of nut)
3 cups fresh basil leaves
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup olive oil (I use extra-virgin, but the 'usual' stuff will do)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together basil leaves, nuts, cheese and garlic and stir rapidly. Many pesto recipes will tell you to use a food processor, but you can also use a blender. If you don't have either, you can just use a large bowl. It just needs to be stirred quickly. Then, pour in the oil just a little bit at a time. Put in salt and pepper if desired. It should be kind of 'pasty' in consistency when you're done. If you want to thin it out, just add more olive oil until you get the consistency you want.

This recipe makes a good amount of pesto-enough to use as a pizza or pasta sauce. You can scale back the proportions if you only need a smaller amount. If you are going to store it, it should be in an airtight container, such as a jar or Tupperware. You can store it for about a week in the refrigerator, or up to six months in the freezer.

Now that you have your pesto, here are some good uses for it:
  • Mix it in with mayonnaise or olive oil to make a sandwich spread or salad dressing
  • Stir it into rice, risotto or mashed potatoes
  • Use as a pizza sauce, either with or instead of regular red sauce
  • Use it as a pasta sauce. It can be used alone, with red sauce or mixed into cream or Alfredo sauce.
  • Use in manicotti, lasagna or stuffed shells
  • Mix it into pasta or potato salads
  • Add to tuna or chicken salads for sandwiches
  • Drizzle over steak or fresh vegetables
  • Use as a marinade for chicken or fish
  • Spread onto garlic cheese flatbread, ordinary garlic bread or bruschetta
  • Use as a dipping sauce, particularly for pita or 'crusty' bread
  • Brush onto chicken, shrimp, steak or kebabs
  • Mixed into or spread on pretty much anything else that needs a 'kick'

Now you have an idea of how to make dishes that are flavorful and anything but boring! Have fun!

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