It’s Summer: Time for a Pesto Party, So Pop Open That Jar

It’s Summer: Time for a Pesto Party

Summer’s most fabulous sauce has the Midas touch: Any food it touches turns into edible golden-green sunshine. Sponsored by Barilla®

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Photo above: Summer Pesto and Prosciutto Pizza; photograph by Jamie Vespa, MS, RD.

Pesto sings of summer’s abundance: Handfuls of fragrant sweet basil leaves are ground with fresh garlic and fruity olive oil, then pureed with grated Parmesan cheese and nuts like pignolas, pistachios or cashews. The sauce can be a little rough or silky smooth, depending on how long you blend it. Best of all, if you seek out a jar of creamy pesto sauce at the market you’ll spare yourself time in a hot kitchen while adding a sexy, complex punch of flavor with every spoonful.

And while the curated recipes below use pesto to bring delicious sunshine to each dish, it has plenty of great uses straight out of the jar: spread onto a sandwich, stirred into scrambled eggs, mixed into hot rice, as a petite dollop on top of a bowl of soup, painted across fish fresh off the grill, or shaken with some olive oil for an instant savory salad dressing. There isn’t much pesto can’t do, so grab a jar and get ready to taste some summer sun.

Pesto Grilled Shrimp Kababs

This quick and simple shrimp kebab recipe is easy to prepare and toss on the grill, and with its cheerful rainbow of summer produce everyone will be happy to grab a skewer. Purchased pesto sauce, such as Barilla Creamy Genovese Pesto, with a little fresh lemon juice stirred in, packs a flavor punch with fragrant Italian basil and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and doubles as both a marinade for the shrimp and a sauce to coat the whole kebab. Be sure to slice the zucchini and yellow squash thinly since the kebabs only take 4 to 6 minutes to cook!

Summer Pesto and Prosciutto Pizza

Yummly Original

Pesto stands in for red sauce on this clever, salty-sweet pizza that captures the best of summer. Fresh basil, luscious burrata cheese, salty sliced prosciutto, a smattering of red onion and one ripe sweet peach meet atop the creamy pesto sauce for a sophisticated pie that’s drizzled with a balsamic reduction for a truly indulgent summer slice. 

20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne

This pesto pasta will become a crowd favorite in no time — almost literally! 20 minutes and dinner is served, thanks to a jar of pesto sauce and some crumbled feta cheese. Put some water on to boil, then grab a lemon and some purchased roasted tomatoes. Feel free to use broccolini or broccoli rabe in place of regular broccoli if you prefer.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies and Sardines

Feel free to use any veggies at the farmers market that inspire you in this dish that’s redolent of the Italian countryside; fennel or eggplant could also taste lovely. Grilled squash and onion get chopped and mixed with sardine pieces, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan before being tossed with creamy pesto-coated spaghetti. This recipe is easily doubled and is equally good served cold the next day.

Pesto Pasta Frittata

Step into the warm embrace of a cozy food hug in this frittata that’s as pleasurable to eat as it is easy to prepare. A little leftover pasta gets stirred into purchased creamy pesto sauce before serving as the comforting basil-flecked center of this rustic frittata; be generous with the cracked black pepper in the egg mixture. A few minutes on the stovetop and a brief stint in the oven and dinner is ready! Serve with additional pesto on the side.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans

The Liguria region of Italy originally combined green beans and potatoes with pesto, and that mixture shines in this substantial pasta dish that only calls for four ingredients, thanks to a jar of smooth and creamy pesto sauce. Be sure to toss the pesto with the boiled potato while it’s still warm so the sauce is fully absorbed. This cheerful dish makes a hearty main course for vegetarians or an excellent side for grilled fish.

Open-Faced Pesto Egg Sandwich

These summery sandwiches are elevated by the pesto spread on the warm toast before a fried egg is gently laid on top, then scattered with arugula tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, for a lighter yet more pithy Italian take on a Croque Madam. These are a great start to the day, but they’d also be a lovely light dinner when it’s too hot to turn on the oven.

Caprese Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake

Yummly Original

This pasta dish sings a song of summer’s greatest hits: pert cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, ciliegine fresh mozzarella and the complex harmony that pesto brings with its garlic, Parmesan, basil, olive oil and pine nuts. Any tubular pasta will do, but cook it a minute or two less than package directions since it’ll also spend 25 minutes in the oven.