Over the last few months, I’ve spent a ton of time on apps like Pinterest and Yummly scouring for the next recipe I’m going to test on my garbage disposal for a boyfriend, Will. I’ve been inclined to try a plethora of recipes I never would have given a second glance in the past. Pesto has never been my go to… until now. The extent of my pesto consumption in the past would be at an Italian restaurant and liberally dunking piece by piece of bread in it until it was gone. Hey, we’re friends right? I’m not going to be pesto-shamed!! And I’m certainly not going to call out one of my girlfriends who admits to eating it with a spoon (you know who you are! Haha). It wasn’t until my friend Sara introduced me to Salmon Pesto bites at a girls night that I really gave it the chance it deserves. Now, I’ve learned you can cook it with or without just about any type of protein and it’s an easy way to add salty, nutty deliciousness to any meal.
What exactly is Pesto? It originated in Italy and literally means ‘Italian sauce.’ I know, so creative. Traditional ingredients include basil, garlic, Pinenuts, EVOO and parmigiano reggiano or pecorino cheese. After doing some research, I found that you can easily substitute/add a myriad of different herbs and nuts in lieu of the classic basil and Pinenuts (think parsley, arugula, walnut, almonds). Pesto isn’t a one size fits all sauce, so to speak. I don’t have a food processor so I haven’t graduated to making my own yet but if you want to give it a try, you can find instructions here. I also found a good blog post on common mistakes to avoid when making pesto which you can find here. My friend Kaitlyn makes her own pesto so I picked her brain and she gave me her ‘recipe’. I use the word recipe loosely because Kaitlyn is a make-as-you-go, I don’t use measurements, type of cook.
- Bundle of basil – leaves only
- Bundle of mint or watercress or spinach
- Handful of walnuts or almonds or 1/2 handful of pine nuts – it’s a free for all!
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced – you can use roasted garlic for extra flavor
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1-2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil – just a drizzle
Add all ingredients to the food processor and drizzle olive oil as its processing. Be careful to not use too much. Add salt and pepper to taste.
My favorite store bought pestos are Classico, found at Publix, and Stonewall Kitchen, found at The Fresh Market. They both have a good consistency and flavor, but not overpowering. Use pesto liberally but don’t go too crazy as it is high in fat from the nuts and EVOO.
Here are a few of my favorite pesto recipes. I am no Top Chef so these are all simple and fairly healthy. You can always adjust the recipes to your liking! We all have to live a little and I choose pesto!
This is my take on Sara’s recipe; the one that first got me to like pesto and salmon, actually.
- 1lb salmon, with skin (or 4 filets)
- Pesto, fresh or store bought
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesean cheese
- 2 tablespoons italian breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Place salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet, skin down. Spoon desired amount of pesto on salmon; I use about 1/2 tbsp per filet. Sprinkle equal parts of parmesean cheese and breadcrumbs onto the filets. Bake for 15-20 min or until light pink/white throughout. Salmon can easily over cook so depending on the thickness, I would check after 15 min and continue to cook at 2 min increments, if necessary. Serve with my favorite side dish Parmesan Spinach Orzo pasta. Voila!
Here’s a fun twist on the typical bacon egg and cheese (BORING!) breakfast sandwich. This is the perk of talking about a pesto post for a month… You have friends send you their favorites. Thanks for this one Shannon!
Pesto Breakfast Sammy
- Whole grain English muffin
- Egg white
- Slice of Swiss cheese or the cheese of your choice
- 2 slices of salami
- 1/2 tbsp pesto
Toast English muffin. Cook egg white as desired. Spread pesto evenly on English muffin and then layer with cheese, egg, and salami. Yummy way to start the day!
Chicken Caprese Bake
- 2 – 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp Pesto, fresh or store bought
- 1 medium tomato, slice thin
- 4 tbsp shredded mozzarella
- 2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment. Wash chicken and dry with paper towel. Slice chicken breast horizontally to create 4 thinner cutlets. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place chicken on prepared baking sheet. Spread 1/2 tbsp of pesto evenly over each piece of chicken. Bake for 15 min. or until no longer pink. Remove from oven and top with tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 4-6 min. or until cheese is melted. Serve with a fresh spinach salad. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste.
*if you’re vegetarian, you can always slice tomatoes, top with a little pesto and mozzarella and bake on 400F for 10-15 min. for a meatless take on this recipe or serve as an appetizer!
Shrimp Pesto ‘Pasta’
- 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 zucchinis, julienned or spiral sliced, I use a Veggetti, to create noodles
- 1/2 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup pesto
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp and 1 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
Marinade for shrimp
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, add more if you like it spicy
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients for marinade and pour in resealable bag or Tupperware and add shrimp. Place in refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Heat 1 tsp EVOO over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Slice zucchini (julienne or spiral) and add to saucepan. Sauté zucchini for 3-4 minutes and put aside. Add remaining butter and olive oil and marinated shrimp to saucepan. Cook shrimp about 2-3 min per side or until shrimp is no longer translucent. Add halved tomatoes during the last minute. Next, add the pesto and heat through, about 1-2 minutes. Be careful to not let the pesto burn! Add zucchini to the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Serve hot and enjoy!
**If you’re not a fan of ‘fake’ noodles, although I urge you to give it a shot, you can always make this recipe with any pasta of your choice.
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much I as do!
I’ll have a treatment update in a week or so when I start my next round so stay tuned.
Have a great weekend!