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10 things you didn’t know you could do with pesto

Whether you buy it in a jar or whip it up yourself, pesto adds instant flavour to almost any dish (and we don’t just mean pasta). A classic green pesto recipe is made using basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, but it can be made with any herb, nut or without the cheese for a vegan option. Then there’s red pesto, which is flavoured with sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers or chilli. There are endless flavour combinations and dishes you can create – as you’re about to discover.

  1. Top a pizza

    Replace the classic tomato sauce on the base of your pizza with vibrant, herby pesto for a tasty twist on a homemade takeaway. This easy pizza bianca recipe is topped with mushrooms and goat's cheese, while this wholemeal pizza is loaded with veg, chilli and lemon for a zingy flavour combination.

    Top a pizza
  2. Turn into a dip

    Pesto isn't just for cooking, next time you're craving a snack, try using it as a tasty dip for pitta breads, veg sticks and more. Use your favourite type of pesto or make your own healthy vegan version with this broccoli, lemon and sunflower seed pesto recipe, it has a thick texture that's perfect for crunchy veg. For something a little more indulgent, combine with whipped cheese for this creamy feta and pesto dip.

    Turn into a dip
  3. Salad base

    Make pesto the base of your packed lunch with these gorgeous layered salad pots. Healthy and delicious, you can adapt the recipe and layer up your favourite veggies and leaves to make an easy lunch al-desko. Try adding shredded cooked chicken or smoked salmon for a more meaty option, too.

    Salad base
  4. Go beyond basil

    Pesto is a great recipe for using up leftover herbs and salad leaves, or for making the most of them when they're in season. Peppery watercress is a favourite, this simple spaghetti recipe is served with a vibrant pea and watercress pesto, while these slow cooker stuffed peppers are drizzled with a deliciously nutty watercress, walnut and hazelnut pesto. Similarly, spinach, rocket and leafy greens such as kale work well.

    Go beyond basil
  5. Upgrade your breakfast

    Add a Mediterranean spin to your morning mushrooms on toast with fresh green pesto, melted mozzarella and sundried tomatoes - perfect for a weekend brunch. A dollop of pesto would also be the perfect partner for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or could be mixed into a tasty green omelette

    Upgrade your breakfast
  6. Bake a tart

    Add pesto to your next bakes with dainty quiches, pies and tarts that will be packed with flavour. This roasted veg tart is a riot of colour and has a nutty, gluten-free base and vegan pesto topping. For a summer picnic option, these mini broad bean and Cheddar quiches have a pretty pesto swirl in the creamy filling.

    Bake a tart
  7. Garnish a soup

    A chunky, nutty pesto will add texture to puréed soups while a red pesto will add a welcome splash of colour, too. This Tuscan-style soup is hearty, filling and finished with a dollop of pesto for real Italian flavour, while this spiced parsnip soup uses a chilli-spiked coriander pesto to balance the sweetness of the root veg. For something a little more meaty, try poaching chicken and veg in a pesto-infused broth for a super-simple midweek dinner.

    Garnish a soup
  8. Freshen up roasts

    When you’re lacking inspiration, pesto will immediately perk up a classic roast. Here, a pot roast chicken is livened up with a homemade spinach pistou (a French, nut-free herb sauce that is similar to pesto), while an almond pesto adds an Italian twist to these grilled lamb cutlets with butter bean mash. Take it outdoors in summer too, and add to a barbecue feast such as this summer pesto pork

    Freshen up roasts
  9. Make it vegan

    You won't miss the cheese at all in this simple butternut spaghetti and vegan pesto recipe which uses a tangy mix of rocket, garlic and extra virgin olive oil to add flavour to sweet, roasted hazelnuts.

    Make it vegan
  10. Makeover midweek meals

    It can be easy to get stuck in a rut with your favourite recipes but it's easy to ring the changes to simple classics with a bit of zingy pesto. Add a dollop to easy oven baked salmon parcels, mix into a hearty dumpling-topped pork cobbler, or drizzle over a super simple sausage and veg traybake.