10 Ways to Use Pesto Beyond Pasta

updated Sep 7, 2022
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

A jar of pesto, made from basil or other greens, is a delightful summer treat. While we love it tossed with fresh pasta, of course, we’ve also found that this fresh, garlicky sauce can be a versatile ingredient in all sorts of other dishes! While you may just think of pesto as something to be tossed with pasta (and how good is it like that?), pesto has so much more to offer.

From breakfast to appetizers to bread, here are 10 smart ways to eat a lot more pesto this summer.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

How To Make Pesto at Home

While you can buy decent pesto at the store, it is one of the easiest sauces to make at home, especially in the summertime, when basil is plentiful and cheap. Here’s how to make great pesto!

Go Beyond Basil

And while summertime brings an abundance of basil, the traditional herb in pesto, don’t be afraid to try other herbs or greens instead. Break the rules and make it with arugula, parsley, or even pumpkin seed and cilantro! Heck, even avocado can lend its charms to pesto.

Yes, it’s technically not a true Italian pesto anymore, but since it’s summer, I think we can relax the rules and just focus on making a tasty sauce instead.

Green Pesto — No Basil Required

(Image credit: Emily Ho)

10 Ways to Go Beyond Pasta with Pesto

Once you have your pesto of choice, try it in one of these fun pasta-less ideas!

1. Mix It into Dips

We’ll mix a little pesto in with sour cream, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or even guacamole! You can also serve it over baked brie for a fancy appetizer your dinner guests will love.

2. Top Your Breakfast

Drizzle pesto over your favorite breakfast eggs to add a touch of herbs and cheese. Turn waffles or pancakes into savory breakfast fare by skipping the sugar and stirring some pesto into the batter instead.

3. Replace Pizza Sauce

Using pesto instead of tomato sauce adds an entirely different layer of flavor to homemade pizza, tarts, or galettes. Remember that pesto is rich, so use it a bit more sparingly than you would the tomato sauce.

Get a recipe:

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

4. Bake into Bread

Instead of garlic bread, spread pesto onto crusty bread and toast, or stir pesto into bread dough for wonderfully fragrant dinner rolls. If you don’t want to turn on the oven, just mix the pesto with some softened butter and slather on some rolls or fresh bread.

5. Spread on a Sandwich or Flatbread

Mix pesto with mayonnaise or use as is on sandwich bread or flatbread. Make a pesto schmear by mixing it with cream cheese and serving with bagels.

6. Mix into Salad Dressing

Stir this intense sauce into grain, rice, or chicken salads. Thinned with a little more oil or vinegar, we have a quick vinaigrette for summer salads. Whisk into buttermilk for an Italian version of ranch dressing.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

7. Toss (or Top) Veggies

Instead of butter, use a dab of pesto to garnish your vegetables. Or skip the butter and sour cream and do what I did in college: put pesto on a baked potato instead.

Get a recipe:

8. Smear on Bruschetta

A smear of pesto topped with a slice of mozzarella on a slice of baguette is one of our favorite quick appetizers. Go beyond caprese flavors and top the pesto with canned tuna or white beans instead.

9. Sauce the Meat

Pesto goes amazingly well with grilled steak, pork chops, chicken, and even fish, so you don’t have to worry about spicing or marinating your meat. You can also season meatloaf or meatballs with pesto.

10. Garnish a Soup

Soupe au pistou, a French bean and vegetable stew, is meant to be served with a drizzle of pesto over top. We love this with potato soup, corn chowder, and many other favorites, too!

What other ways do you use pesto?

More on Pesto

Updated from a post originally published in June 2010.