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pestoingredients

Did anyone try that delicious pesto recipe I shared with you last week?  What’d you think?  It changed your life, didn’t it?

And if you didn’t whip some up, now is your chance.  You’ve seen my favorite way to use it, but I promised you other ways to use this Italian masterpiece. These pesto-licious recipes are staples in our house, too.

First up, a main dish.

Baked Pesto Chicken

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
3/4 c. basil pesto (find the recipe here)
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Spread a tablespoon or two of pesto on the bottom of an appropriately sized baking dish.  Place chicken breasts on top.  Cover each piece of chicken with remaining pesto. Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 25-30 minutes (if the chicken breasts are really thick add 5 extra minutes).  Remove foil. Sprinkle chicken with mozzarella cheese and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes then enjoy!

pestochicken

I love this recipe because it’s so hands off, especially if you’ve made the pesto ahead of time. This gives me time to put a little more effort into my side dish or play with my girls during that magic witching hour between 5 and 6 p.m. when they can’t seem to do anything by themselves. You can also leave off the mozz and its still delicious… saves some calories, too!

This is also a gluten free recipe.  I’ve become a lot more aware of this lately because one of my good friends doesn’t eat gluten.  It’s nice to make something other than chili if she’s coming over to eat.  Serve this chicken with risotto (my favorite!) and a roasted, steamed, or sauteed veggie and you’ve got a whole gluten-free meal!

Now, a side dish that uses some of this lovely pesto…

Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes

4 – 6 plum or vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 c. basil pesto (find recipe here)
1/3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Turn oven broiler on HIGH. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out the insides.  Chop up the tomato insides and mix in a bowl with the pesto.  Season filling with salt and pepper to taste.  Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet (with sides! they’re very juicy) and fill with the tomato-pesto mixture.  Sprinkle mozzarella on top and broil for 5-8 minutes until tomatoes are soft and cheese is melted and browned. 

pestotomatocollage

pestotomatoes

Delish, I tell you!  And such a fresh summer side.  Oh, and gluten-free, too!!!

This pesto dresses up so many dishes and will wow your friends and family every time.  Here are a few more suggestions…

Quinoa: cook quinoa according to package directions.  While its still warm, add a couple spoonfuls of pesto and some chopped tomato (I love that the tomato softens a bit and the cheese in the pesto melts a little when you add it warm).  GLUTEN-FREE AGAIN!!!

Sandwiches: smear pesto on your bread in place of mayo or mustard! This is especially yummy on grilled turkey and cheese! Or a tomato and mozzarella panini (oh, I’m having one of those SOON!)

Salads: toss pesto into a salad in place of salad dressing.  You may need to add a little extra olive oil or some lemon juice to loosen in up!

Appetizers: spread crusty toast with pesto before topping with bruschetta mixture. Or spread pesto on sliced fresh mozzarella then top with a tomato slice, balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper for a fresh take on traditional caprese.

That’s just a few ways that we use it around here.  I hope you’ll give it a shot now that spring is bringing new life to our herb gardens (not mine, it got fried in 90 degree temps already). And don’t hesitate to throw in other flavors that you like… cilantro, mint, or sun-dried tomatoes (use less oil with this one) are great subs for the basil.

If you try out any of these ideas, let me know in the comments. Or let me know how you use pesto in your house.  I obviously love it and am always looking for new things to try!

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