10 Things You Can Do With a Jar of Pesto

Every summer, I grow bushels of sweet and lemon basil. I love transforming the herbs into a fresh-tasting, bright green pasta sauce by combining them with garlic, Parmesan and pine nuts.

But you can match up just about any green with any nut to produce a pistou (as the French call it). Pine nuts can be pricey, so I often substitute walnuts, which produce a darker green sauce. And since parsley grows in my garden year round, I’ll use parsley as a base after my basil crop is spent.

Basic Pesto Recipe

I’ve used this basic Joy of Cooking recipe for years. Most of the time, I’ll double the recipe, because I want to make good use of  basil during its limited, hot-weather growing time.

Often, I’ll freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, and then transfer the single-serving nuggets into a plastic bag until I’m ready to use.


  • 1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (or parsley)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • ¼ cup thinly grated Sardinia or Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup olive oil


In a food processor with a chopping blade, add and chop in order:

  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Cheese

While the processor is running, pour in olive oil until you have the consistency of creamed butter.

Cover and refrigerate or freeze.


Here are just 10 things you can do with a jar of pesto. But really, you’re limited only by your imagination.

1. Pasta sauce: If I know I’m making the pesto for pasta, I’ll leave out the cheese and add it when I’m pasta-ready. I fold the cheese into the steaming pasta, then mix in the pesto.

2. Salad dressing: Add more olive oil for a thinner consistency, then toss with greens.

3. Italian tortellini soup: Drop a tablespoon of pesto into the bowl to give soup stock and tortellini a kick.

4. Rice topping: The bright green basil pesto gives white rice a festive look.

5. Sandwich spread: Spread the pesto on toasted Italian bread, then top with grilled chicken breast and roasted peppers.

6. Couscous topping: For a quick and fancy lunch, toss couscous with the pesto, then top with grilled shrimp or vegetables.

7. Tomato Caprese Dressing: Instead of pouring plain olive oil onto this tomato and mozzarella salad, drizzle a small amount of basil pesto.

8. Pesto meatballs: Mix pesto into ground beef and turkey, to give your meatballs a garlicky taste. Or, add pesto to these vegan black bean “meatballs.”

9. Grilled corn: Spread pesto over ears of corn, cover with aluminum foil, then toss on the grill.

10. Marinade: Coat chicken, fish, meat or tofu with pesto, then marinate for at least 8 hours.



Anna R
Anna R14 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Sarah Grayce P
Sarah Grayce Pabout a year ago


David C
David Cabout a year ago


Greta H
Past Member about a year ago

thank you

Lori L.
Lori L.3 years ago

Hi Lisa;

First of all, THANK YOU for your "10 things you can do with a jar of Pesto"! I've been in "Pesto Mode" for about 2 weeks now:) It's my first time, and I'm pestoing up a storm.

In this article you said every summer you grow bushels of basil. THAT got my attention immediately. I tried growing basil last year, and I failed miserably. It never got out of a 3" pot before going to live with the Basil Gods":( I'm a horrible mother.

I read that they don't transplant well. Could you please me HOW you grow bushels of basil??? Do you start them in those peat cups or what?

I have NO idea how to begin this year. I can grow the heck out of rosemary though:) OH, by the way, I kill tomatoes too.

Any help you could offer would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!

Thank you so much for your time.


Nicole L.
Nicole L4 years ago

Love it, thanks.

C H.
C H4 years ago

Have been guilty of eating it straight out the jar. Have also made my own fresh using veggies from the garden - but wrong time of year right now, so I convert to using the jar.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago


Kamia T.
Kamia T4 years ago

Pine nuts are too hard to find here in the Midwest, but I've successfully subbed in pecans or walnuts. Slightly different taste, but still good.

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago