Green Is the New Black: 5 Must-Try Pestos

Enhance your favorite summer dishes with Food Network Kitchen's five easy takes on the classic pesto. 

By: Emily Lee


Photo by: Antonis Achilleos Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin 917 751 2855

Antonis Achilleos Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin 917 751 2855

There’s nothing like a fresh batch of pesto to imbue pasta, meats and steamed vegetables with bright, herbaceous flavor. Most people are familiar with the classic pesto, a pureed mix of basil, pine nuts, crushed garlic and cheese (usually Parmesan) moistened with a splash of olive oil. But these ingredients, though delicious, can be pricey and difficult to find. 

The good news is, there are other ways to prepare this zesty sauce from scratch, in less time and with less money spent at the store. If it’s green and a vegetable, chances are you can turn it into pesto. So if your potted basil didn’t fare as well as you’d hoped this summer, never fear: Broccoli, arugula and other greens make great substitutes. Here are five easy takes on the classic pesto to invigorate your favorite summer dishes.

Shortcut Pesto

No imported nuts or costly cheeses here. For this Pesto Pork with Polenta (pictured at top), the experts at Food Network Kitchen have created a traditional pesto with a few modifications, relying on pantry-ready ingredients to help get dinner on the table faster. Basil, parsley, scallions and garlic make up the fragrant base, while Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice add a flavorful zing. This batch comes together in just a few minutes with the help of your food processor and pairs perfectly with sauteed spinach, savory polenta and juicy cuts of seared pork.

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm 

Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks


Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

Arugula Pesto

The star of many a salad gets a saucy makeover in this summery Chicken with Arugula Pesto dish. Combine fresh peppery arugula with parsley, lemon juice, Parmesan and olive oil in your food processor — and don’t forget the nuts. For this recipe, toasted almonds or hazelnuts work best.

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm
Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks


Food Stylist: Jamie KimmProp Stylist: Paige Hicks

Photo by: Christopher Testani

Christopher Testani

Parsley Pesto

Next to basil, parsley is the second most-common herb base for pesto. In fact, sometimes you’ll find the two herbs blended together in a pesto recipe. But for these Green Beans with Walnut-Parsley Sauce, parsley takes the main stage. The herb’s bright, refreshing flavor gives blanched green beans the perk-up they need to warrant a spot at your next dinner party.

Food Network Kitchen's Broccoli-Walnut Pesto With Pasta

Food Network Kitchen's Broccoli-Walnut Pesto With Pasta

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2012, Food Network, Television Food Network, G.P.

Tara Donne, 2012, Food Network, Television Food Network, G.P.

Broccoli Pesto

Using broccoli in place of leafy greens or herbs is a great way to experiment with new textures, as you’ll find with this Broccoli-Walnut Pesto with Pasta. Not only is this pesto good for you, it’s also cost-conscious. Pine nuts can set you back $20 or more when purchased by the pound. Generally speaking, walnuts will cost you less than half that amount.


Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Kale Pesto

If you’re tired of hearing about kale, well, you’re not alone. But before you forsake the superfood for a new health trend, give this Kale and Pistachio Pesto Spaghetti one look. Healthy and cost-conscious, this pesto spaghetti is also timely, taking just 35 minutes to prepare. Make a double batch and you’ll have enough to serve a crowd at your next summer party. Spaghetti is an obvious— albeit tasty — choice, but the pesto is also good on fish, chicken, pork and steak.

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