Green basil pesto sauce, made famous by northern Italy, lends vibrant, herbaceous flavor to pasta, fish, chicken breast recipes, and more. This makes it a favorite ingredient for summer dinner ideas that taste light and fresh. Green basil pesto, the most well-known type, is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic, but the various regions of Italy all have their own recipes. Here are some tasty suggestions for what to make with pesto this season.
Baked Caprese Chicken
Caprese salad is a simple yet delicious Italian dish that consists of tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves. It’s also an easy recipe to transform into other meals, like a baked caprese chicken dinner. In this dish, the pesto sauce atop the baked chicken breast works as the basil, and the tomato and mozzarella can either be added fresh or melted in the oven. Also try pesto chicken in a wrap or with pasta!
Grilled Vegetables with Basil Pesto
For a meat-free meal, throw some lightly seasoned zucchini, eggplant, corn, and other vegetables on the grill. When they come off the heat, dice everything into bite-sized pieces and toss with green pesto in a bowl for a nice, even coating. Dig in as a main meal or make it a side to a plant-based burger.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Mayo-based pasta salad is the go-to for a lot of families, but that can be a little heavy. For a refreshing, picnic-ready pasta salad, add a dollop of pesto to your favorite pasta noodle, like farfalle or fusilli. Mix in some freshly chopped red and yellow tomatoes, and any other fruits and veggies you desire.
Turkey Pesto Sandwich
Part of what makes pesto sauce so useful is its versatility; it compliments almost any protein. Swap out your tired turkey and mayo sandwich for one with zesty pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and melted provolone cheese. It will be a smash hit at your next outdoor get-together.
Taking a trip to the ocean is a summer ritual, and so is indulging in seafood. Add extra dimension to your usual garlic shrimp recipe by tossing in some pesto and red pepper flakes. This easy pesto shrimp dish can be served by itself or on a bed of linguine pasta. You can also try drizzling pesto garlic sauce on grilled shrimp skewers.
Sicilian Pesto Flatbread
Head further south and you’ll run into Sicilian pesto, which employs fresh tomato as a main ingredient. Another difference is that instead of pine nuts, many Sicilian pesto recipes rely on almonds or pistachios. Give your next pesto pizza or flatbread a Southern Italian touch by spreading a light coating of red pesto on the dough in place of traditional tomato sauce. Learn how to make it from scratch, or find authentic, pre-made Sicilian pesto sauce online.
Veggie Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Panini
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes are often paired with pesto in recipes, so why not just cut to the chase and combine the two? Spread sun-dried tomato pesto on a panini for extra tang and a pop of rich, red color. Layer the sandwich with greens, red onions, cucumbers, and other fresh produce for a light, vegetarian-friendly meal that will transport your spirit to the sunny Mediterranean.
Penne Pesto Calabrese
The Italian region of Calabria is known for its peppers, so it’s no surprise that these beauties show up in the local pesto sauce recipe. Where other regions’ recipes call for basil and pecorino or parmigiano cheese, pesto calabrese requires peppers and ricotta. The result is a creamy, orange sauce that will brighten up any plate. Try pesto calabrese with your next penne pasta dish!
Baked Pesto Salmon
By now you’ve probably realized pesto is super easy to use, and you’ll be putting it on everything. The next easy recipe to try for the fish-lover is baked pesto salmon. Salmon is a beloved food of health buffs, as it contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B, and other key nutrients. Put a few salmon filets topped with basil pesto and surrounded by cherry tomatoes in the oven. As it cooks, the small tomatoes will burst open, and you’ll end up with a heart-healthy meal that is deliciously juicy, with just the right balance of acidic and savory flavors. Serve over a bed of greens to amp up the presentation.