Punch Up Your Weeknight Meals with Pesto

Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  It goes great on pasta, but it also has a variety of other uses.  Here are 5 different ways to incorporate pesto into your meals, giving them extra flavor and freshness. 

1. Use pesto as a spread for an Italian-style turkey or chicken sandwich.

2. Mix pesto into mashed potatoes for a new spin on an old favorite.

3. When roasting skin-on whole chickens or chicken pieces, stuff pesto between the skin and the flesh.  (This is easy to do, just find a place where the skin lifts easily, and stuff away.)

4. Buy pre-made pizza crusts (usually in the Italian foods section at the grocery store) and use pesto in place of traditional pizza sauce.  Top with your favorite cheeses and toppings.

5. Forget the ketchup and top your burger with pesto instead.  For an added twist, use ground turkey instead of beef, and melt mozzarella cheese on top.  Yum!

In summer, when basil is in season, try making your own pesto.  Using a food processor or blender makes it fast and easy.  There are thousands of recipes out there, here's a good one from Martha Stewart Everyday Food.  To change it up, try using something other than pine nuts (like walnuts or pistachios...mmmm). In the cooler months, when basil is more expensive and harder to come by, (or when you're just too wiped out to make an effort) take some help from the store.  You can usually find pesto in the dairy section, next to the refrigerated ravioli and other pastas.  To freshen up store-bought pesto, just add a little lemon zest and juice.  Everyone will think you whipped it up yourself.  And why should you tell them anything different? 

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