Pesto is and will always be my favorite sauce/condiment/flavor in the world. It’s so versatile. From pesto pasta (see recipe below), to pesto pizza, to even using it as a salad dressing, pesto just goes with anything.
If you checked out my blog post last week, where I made a Pumpkin Cilantro Pesto, you know that I’ve been looking for creative ways to amp up my pesto game. And there are so many ways to do it! From using dandelion greens to kale, and from using traditional pine-nuts to almonds, it’s easy to create a gourmet pesto if you follow the right greens to cheese to nuts ratio.
This is why I’ve created my Perfect Pesto Guide to help all you pesto Shefs out there get the right proportions down when it comes to swapping out ingredients to make that signature creative pesto of yours.
Instead of the traditional basil and pine nuts combo, get creative and use those dandelion greens that you always see at the farmers market and have always wondered about. Kale makes for a wonderfully hearty pesto. Use parsley and fresh oregano to make a chimichurri style pesto that’s bursting with flavor. Great on steaks. Although delicious, pine nuts can cost an arm and a leg, so why not use some toasted almonds, or even pumpkin seeds for a flavorful twist? As for cheeses, I like to stick with the classics on this one—Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, just because I love the saltiness and dry crumbly texture.
Once you’ve mastered this basic recipe, you can feel free to deviate from it as much as you’d like. Also, don’t limit yourself to just using greens as the main ingredient, I’ve made delicious pestos without using greens at all. During corn season, my favorite pesto to make is Lottie+Doof’s Sweet Corn Pesto. Tossed with some fresh linguini, I could subsist on this dish alone for the rest of my life.
Pesto is good on just about anything. The Kitchn offers some great tips on creative ways to use pesto beyond pasta. My favorite from this list is tossing it with hot out of the oven roasted baby potatoes. Um…yum!
Last week I made a garlic shrimp pasta that I tossed with my pumpkin seed cilantro pesto. I just sort of made it up as I went and it turned out to be nothing short of phenomenal! ( I love when that happens.) The freshness of the cilantro and lemon juice, paired with the irresistible combination of butter and garlic make for a creative take on shrimp. For all you shrimp lovers out there, bring this dish that’s healthy yet loaded with an umami of flavors to your holiday table!
Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto
¾-1 lb shrimp, shelled and de-veined
4 cloves (or more) garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
4-6 oz dry whole-wheat spaghetti, or linguini
½ cup pumpkin seed cilantro pesto (LINK)
Squeeze of lemon
Grated parmesan cheese
1. Dry prepped shrimp with paper towel to remove moisture. Season with salt and pepper. In a wide skillet pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add shrimp and sear on one side for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss shrimp to cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes—until shrimp is cooked through and opaque. The shrimp will cook very quickly, before the garlic will have time to burn. Remove pan from heat.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about a cup of pasta water. Toss pasta directly in the sautee pan with the shrimp. Add pesto toss until evenly coated. Use the reserved pasta water to loosen up the pesto until desired consistency. Squeeze some lemon and top with parmesan cheese to taste.