Dinner in a Flash, with Pesto
Pesto and pasta are a perfect weeknight pair — for a reason. Sponsored by Barilla®
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It’s a Monday, and you didn’t get around to meal planning this weekend. Or it’s Wednesday, and you worked late. It’s Thursday, and you’re plum out of ideas. These are the moments when you need a few reliable, but still interesting, pantry meals in your back pocket, lest you break down and order take-out again.
For a quick, satisfying dinner, two staples that will never let you down are pasta and pesto. Just remember, staple isn’t a stand-in for generic, boring or expected. Staples are reliably delicious and uncomplicated. They’re satisfying.
These tempting riffs on the classic pairing of pesto and pasta are diverse enough, flavor-wise, to keep your interest all week long — even though they come together in about 30 minutes (and often less!).
The name says it all. But this seemingly straightforward recipe from Love and Lemons is actually a just-right mix of traditional and inventive. You build on the rich flavor of pesto with arugula, pine nuts and red pepper flakes, then add non-traditional touches like hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and sunflower seeds. A bit of pasta water from boiling the spaghetti helps keep the flavorful sauce nice and loose. And feel free to sub any pasta you like.
It really doesn’t get easier than this. The creaminess of the Genovese pesto, in this recipe from Barilla, adds the just-right element for a cozy — and vegetarian — dinner in. And the fresh basil keeps it feeling bright, not boring. Perfect for any day of the week. With so few ingredients, each element really matters — be sure the pasta is perfectly al dente and use a little pasta water to help the pesto stick perfectly to the pasta.
What isn’t better with bacon? This recipe, from Leah Itsine’s Blog, keeps it light, bright and fresh with cherry tomatoes, arugula and pesto, then balances it all out with the rich, smoky goodness of some bacon rashers. Per Itsine, this dish is healthy, delicious, kid-friendly and perfect for next-day work lunches. We call that a win-win-win-win-win.
If the grill is your go-to, everything but the rotini pasta in this recipe from Recipe Runner can be handled outside. Just grill the asparagus and herbed chicken to your liking while the pasta boils, then chop and assemble with plenty of pesto, plus extra cheese, pine nuts and basil. Bonus: You can riff endlessly. Got rotisserie chicken? Great — the recipe will come together even more quickly. Prefer dark meat? Swap in chicken thighs. Vegetarian? Use cannellini beans. This dish can be served warm or cold and is also great the next day.
For a more elevated weeknight meal, Natasha at Salt and Lavender uses a bit of cream and lemon juice to help create a luxurious sauce that really lets the pesto shine. After browning the salmon, which is lightly dredged in flour, the rest of the ingredients combine in the same pan, which, not incidentally, makes cleanup just as quick and easy. Says one fan, “I made this for a small dinner party tonight. Not only were there no leftovers, our guests were scraping tiny bits from the bowl and serving spoon.”
When is spaghetti and meatballs not the usual spaghetti and meatballs? When you sub pesto and seriously simplify. In this five-star recipe from Barilla, the four-ingredient meatballs — just breadcrumbs, ground meat, cheese and parsley, braised in some stock — come together quickly, and the bright green pesto makes the dish delicious and rather unexpected.
It’s pesto and pasta meet that other weeknight savior — the sheet pan dinner. In this recipe from The Defined Dish, store-bought gnocchi and pesto get an assist from fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and arugula. A word to the wise: Per Alex at The Defined Dish, this recipe doesn’t work as well with cauliflower gnocchi. The water content is too high to crisp up adequately.
Sometimes, it can feel as though you have to choose between pesto and a tomato sauce. But this recipe from Domestically Blissful makes it more of a yes-and situation. Cherry and cocktail tomatoes are roasted together with salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil, then tossed with lemon and pesto over perfectly cooked spaghetti. What could be more summery? What could be simpler?