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Pesto Possibilities

Pesto is a summertime favorite at my house — a concoction of what I happen to have on hand: a fresh herb or leafy green, some garlic and extra virgin olive oil, a handful of nuts, some aged cheese and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Used as a sauce, spread or dip, this flavorful mixture enhances everything from salad dressing to pasta and grains, potatoes, vegetables, legumes, tofu, seafood and chicken.

Pesto originated in the Liguria region of northern Italy. It was traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese and a sheep cheese known as Fiore Sardo. The name is derived from the Italian word “pestare” which means “to pound” or “crush.” This is because making pesto entailed crushing and grinding the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle.

Chances are you’ve had pesto with a pasta dish, but do you know how easy it is to make at home? In just a few simple steps, you can create a delicious pesto. Although the traditional version will forever rein supreme, basil, cheese and nuts are not required for an outstanding pesto. A few simple substitutions can create a wonderful array of flavors and textures.

Here are some traditional and non-traditional pesto possibilities to get you started:

Here’s a personal favorite: Cook white beans till tender, add roasted tomatoes, garlic and onions. Top with a dollop of pesto. And when in a time crunch, I head for my favorite standby, “Presto Pesto” – store-bought, ready-to-eat and fresh! Got a pesto recipe or idea that you really love? Let me know.