What To Know If You’re *Obsessed* With Pesto

Including how to make your own at home.
a jar of pesto on the left, and a pesto pasta dish on the right
PHOTO: (LEFT) Caroline Attwood on Unsplash, (RIGHT) Eaters Collective on Unsplash

By now, you’ve probably been acquainted with the usual pesto pasta or pesto dip or even chicken pesto sandwich—these are the basic pesto-based dishes you find in restaurant menus, after all. And when done right, these are extremely delicious. But unless you’ve made your own pesto, you might not know what the stuff is made of exactly.

What is pesto?

Pesto is a magic sauce that originated in Italy. The word comes from the Genoese verb “pestare” which means “to crush.” Appropriate considering pesto is made by crushing ingredients together. Like many recipes, people have their own variations, but the traditional way consists of basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and pine nuts. But since pine nuts are more expensive, people have experimented with using other nuts as well: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pecans. I’ve even seen someone throw in sunflower seeds in there. The same goes for cheese. If you don’t have any Parmesan on hand, any hard, salty cheese could work; my favorite’s Gouda, lol.

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What is a simple pesto recipe?

Google will give you so, so many options, but I find this recipe by Bon Appetit to be a strong contender.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 6 cups of basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
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Directions:

  1. Toast the pine nuts for five to seven minutes, until they’re golden brown. Toss them once halfway through.
  2. Transfer to a food processor—yes, you’ll need one for this recipe—and let it cool before adding the garlic and Parmesan. Pulse the ingredients for about a minute, or until they’re mixed well.
  3. Their tip: Add the basil last so it doesn’t get “bruised” with all the blending. Also, it’ll retain its vibrant green color this way.
  4. Keep the motor running and slowly add oil until the texture is smooth. Season with salt, if necessary, and serve.
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How long can pesto last?

According to Delish.com, fresh pesto can last up to seven days in the ref and eight months in the freezer (though I doubt you won’t finish it way before then).

What dishes can you make with pesto?

The best thing about pesto is how easy you can incorporate it to so many recipes. Check these out:

Chicken Margherita

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 4 tbsps butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup prepared pesto
  • 2 cups of quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Season the chicken breast with oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook the chicken on a skillet with oil over medium high heat. Cook one side for six minutes then flip it over. Make sure to check that the chicken is cooking in the middle. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  2. In the same skillet, pour white wine and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to get all the flavor out of those chicken bits.
  3. Add butter to the skillet and once it’s melted, mix in the garlic and lemon juice. Stir everything before putting the chicken back onto the skillet.
  4. Top the chicken with mozzarella then cover it so the cheese melts. Let it cook for one minute. For the final touch, top everything with pesto, tomatoes, and of course, Parmesan.
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Pesto Shrimp Skewers

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb medium or large frozen shrimp
  • 3 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 8 skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of pesto

Directions:

  1. Make sure your shrimp has been thawed, rinsed, and deveined.
  2. When your shrimp is ready, preheat your grill. Next, skewer the shrimp and lemon slices.
  3. Drizzle it with some love (olive oil) and season it with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill these for around five minutes, until you notice a slight char to the lemons.
  5. Brush the shrimp with pesto before serving.

But really, at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with a plate full of pesto pasta. Boil pasta in a large pot and drain the water when it’s cooked just the way you like it. Next, in a frying pan, cook onions and pesto over medium low heat. Add salt and pepper. Mix it with the pasta and voila, your pesto cravings are satisfied.

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