Here are all the best recipes with pesto, to give ideas of how to use this green sauce in your cooking! Plus, a go-to basil pesto recipe.
What’s better than a swirl of sparkling emerald green pesto? It adds a garlicky, savory, irresistible flavor to just about anything! From pasta to pizza to grilled cheese, everything is better with a little pesto. Right?
Pesto is a sauce that originates in Italy. The word pesto comes from an Italian word that means “pounded” or “crushed”. A pesto can refer to any type of sauce that is crushed. Pesto alla genovese, the version of pesto from Genoa, Italy, is the most popular version. It features basil, pinenuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Since it’s the most popular variety, recipes below all feature basil pesto. And the first one: our go-to classic basil pesto. Ready to get started?
Let's start with our best pesto recipe! This classic basil pesto is the best way to use a load of fresh basil. Is there anything better? It’s savory, garlicky, creamy, peppery, and you can slather a smear on anything. Here are a few of our favorite variations!
The best recipe with pesto (in our minds)? Pesto pizza! This pizza is totally classic, using our Pizza Dough Master Recipe for the perfect crust that's crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Spread it with a layer of bright green, garlicky basil pesto, then top with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. It's a triumph!
The best way to make this tasty sauce into a fast and easy dinner? Pesto spaghetti! It’s herby, Parmesan-y, garlicky and always a crowd pleaser. We’ll show you the trick to getting a silky sauce covering all your noodles: no more gummy, dry pesto here! Serve them as is, or top with veggies or fresh mozzarella for a fast and easy dinner.
Here’s a recipe with pesto that has easy weeknight meal written all over it: pesto shrimp! Turns out this bright green, garlicky sauce is the perfect pairing for this succulent shellfish. The two flavors go hand-in-hand, just like famous duos like tomatoes and basil. Alex and I were inspired to make this recipe because of the bushy basil plant in our backyard. There’s no better use for a big patch of pesto than a pile of shrimp (if you love seafood, that is).
Here’s a genius kitchen move: 5-minute pesto cream sauce! Did you know you can simmer pesto with cream and it thickens into a sauce? You don’t need to make a roux with butter and flour like a normal cream sauce, watching anxiously to make sure it doesn’t burn. Nope, just throw these two ingredients into a pan and voila! You’ve got a beautiful, bright green sauce that’s full of savory, herby flavor. It’s perfect for pasta, and even better drizzled over salmon or grilled fish.
Corkscrew-shaped cavatappi is perfect for pasta’s partner: basil pesto! This recipe with pesto is a tasty way to enjoy them both that everyone around the table will love. You’ll make a quick and easy pesto cream sauce, then drench the curly noodles and add a few handfuls of shredded Parmesan cheese. It’s simple, but it’s got mighty big flavor! If you prefer not cooking with heavy cream, we’ve got another variation that works with just pesto too.
Got basil? Great. Here’s a dipping sauce that you absolutely must try: pesto aioli! This flavor packed-condiment is a mashup between a traditional aioli and basil pesto. It makes a creamy sauce that’s full of big flavor: pepper basil, savory mayo, and a pop of salty Parmesan cheese. Aioli is perfect as a French fry dip, but it also works as a spread for burgers and sandwiches.
Oh hey there, creamy pesto mac and cheese! This seriously cozy comfort food is just as gooey as it looks, and Harvarti cheese makes for the creamiest of sauces. Adding a swirl of bright green basil pesto is a total genius move! Try it with any of your favorite mac and cheese recipes to step them up a notch.
How to make plain old quinoa into a stunning side dish? Add a swirl of quinoa! This pesto quinoa recipe gives this whole grain big flavor with just a dollop of the green good stuff. It makes for a perfect simple side dish to serve up with salmon, shrimp or veggie skewers.
Pesto in a grilled cheese recipe? Yes please! This one uses provalone cheese and a swirl of pesto, then it's grilled on an actual charcoal grill. The grill imparts a smoky flavor that compliments the gooey cheese and savory pesto. But try this pesto trick with any grilled cheese: you can't go wrong!
Another pesto recipe idea: swirl it into creamy salad dressing to add big flavor! Turns out, this emerald green sauce adds the perfect boost to salads. This version is a healthy salad dressing that has much less calories than the typical dressing. It’s kind of like a ranch dressing, but with pesto.
Another recipe with pesto: turn that pesto grilled cheese into "dippers"! Slicing the sandwich into long strips makes them perfect for dipping. Here you'll dip it into a tangy marinara sauce. It makes for the perfect gameday or entertaining appetizer, or it works as a snack too.
The next best recipe with pesto? Pesto pasta! The simplicity of pesto pasta with homemade basil pesto and ripe juicy tomatoes. With seasonal ingredients, it will always, always taste beautiful and fresh. It will blow your mind every time.
Why not spread pesto on a burger? You can use any type of burger: here portobello mushrooms are grilled and full of savory flavor. They're served Mediterranean style: on a ciabatta roll with melted provalone cheese and a layer of basil pesto.
Pesto on a breakfast sandwich recipe? Yep. This tasty sandwich works for breakfast, lunch or dinner: and takes only 5 minutes to whip up! The combination of runny egg and basil pesto is savory and satisfying. It's an easy go-to meal you can eat any time of the day.
Here's another sandwich recipe with pesto! It features ripe, juicy tomatoes alongside smoky grilled eggplant, creamy fresh mozzarella, olive spread, and of course: a swirl of basil pesto! It's based on a sandwich we had a sandwich shop in Pisa, Italy, and it's so bursting with flavor that it's become a fan favorite.
Before we get to the end of these recipes with pesto...let's talk vegan pesto! Do you eat a plant based diet? That emerald green, classic sauce is traditionally made with Parmesan cheese. But don't worry: vegan pesto is darn good, too! Head over to see our secret to getting that cheesy flavor. Or, try our Vegan Cashew Pesto, which features cashews instead of the traditional pinenuts (they're easier to find and cheaper).
Instead of pasta, why not try squash noodles with pesto? Here’s an easy spaghetti squash recipe that we’ve been making as a healthy side dish. The tender squash noodles are swirled with basil pesto and doused with fluffy grated Parmesan. It's a spectacular way to use this green sauce. Make either our Roasted Spaghetti Squash or Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash for the "noodles".
One most pasta recipe with pesto! Pasta and potatoes may sound like an unusual combination, but it’s actually a traditional way of serving pesto in northern Italy. In Genoa, pesto’s birthplace, Italians boil green beans, potatoes, and pasta (sometimes all in the same pot) and serve it with a pesto sauce. It's seriously satisfying and makes for a tasty meal!
Last but not least in our recipes with pesto: another pizza. This time instead of using the pesto as a sauce under the cheese, use it as a garnish on top! This classic Italian-style pizza uses our Easy Pizza Sauce to top that beautiful fluffy crust, gooey fresh mozzarella,
How to freeze homemade pesto
The best way to store homemade pesto for long periods of time is to freeze it! You can refrigerate for 5 days, but to extend the life we recommend the freezer. Here’s how to freeze basil pesto:
Pour the pesto into an ice cube tray and pop in the freezer.
Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a freezer safe sealed container.
When you’re ready to eat, you can pop out small servings of pesto. Place them in a container and allow to come to room temperature on the counter or in the refrigerator.
In a small dry skillet, toast the nuts over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the nuts to a bowl and allow them to cool slightly. (This step is optional, but brings out a more robust flavor in the nuts.)
In food processor**, combine the nuts, cheese, and peeled garlic. Process until finely ground, 20 to 30 seconds.
Add the basil, lemon juice and kosher salt. Turn on the food processor and gradually pour in the olive oil. Once combined, turn off the food processor. Blend in a bit more olive oil if desired, to achieve a looser texture. Stores for about 1 week in the refrigerator and several months frozen.
*Pine nuts are traditional, but can be expensive. Cashews and walnuts also have great flavor and are easier to find. You can use any of these variations!
Keywords: Recipes with Pesto, Basil Pesto Recipe
More pesto recipes
You can make pesto with ingredients other than basil! Here are a few other recipes:
Red Pepper Pesto This red pepper pesto features roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts, blended together to form a firey red pesto.
Garlic Scape Pesto Pesto made with garlic scapes, if you find them at your farmers market! It works with grilled meat, spread onto pizza, or swirl in a yogurt dip!
Mint Pesto Swap out basil for mint! This one features pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of pine nuts.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.