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14 Ways To Use Leftover Pesto

Let’s face it we all have days when our culinary genius peaks at pasta with pesto from a jar. Those days when you work late, or the kids have to get to swimming, there is no judgement here! We don’t always make our own fresh pesto and know that real life happens. However, if like us you have half a house that loves pesto genovese and the other half who like the rosa, you will have leftovers in the jar.

So what to do with the leftover pesto to try to reduce our food waste and be a bit more creative, that is a fun little conundrum. We think if there is too much pesto, why not go beyond pasta?

14 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Pesto

I wanted recipes and ideas that weren’t just sad old leftover meals. So we have really used this problem of food waste and turned it into a little project in our house. Frugal cooking is also tasty!

pesto potatoes
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1. New Potatoes With Pesto Dressing

It doesn’t have to be new potatoes, just boiled potatoes that you may want to make just that little bit more special. Depending on how the pesto has dried in the jar you may want to add between 1 tablespoon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. With this you can also add a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice too. This works very well if your potatoes are accompanying a rich meat like lamb. Simply boil the potatoes as you would do normally and while they are bubbling away add your oil and lemon juice to your jar of leftover pesto. Close the lid and give it a good shake up. Drain your cooked potatoes and stir through your lemon pesto drizzle. Add some sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs to taste if you want it cold as a potato salad.

For a bit of a twist add a little olive oil and equal parts brine from a jar of olives, it saves you needing to season the potatoes and gives it a bit of a salty kick as well.

pesto caprese salad recipe

2. The Ultimate Caprese Salad

A basic Caprese salad is that striking one with green basil leaves, red tomato slices and white buffalo mozzarella slices. It represents the flag of Italy and originates from the island of Capri. Usually there will be a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing drizzled over. So now we take our jar of pesto and add a good glug of olive oil, 2 tablespoons should do the trick. Pop the lid back on firmly and let the kids take it in turns to shake the jar. Make sure to dance around shaking it if you don’t have any kids to do it for you. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and generously drizzle over your slices of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil leaves. I would say leave to settle and infuse for around an hour before serving.

pesto pimped pizza

3. Pesto Pimped Pizza

This can be another midweek cheat meal as well, or you can go all out and make your own pizza, including base from scratch. If you go the fully homemade route, add your pesto to the base of your pizza before putting any of your sauce on. This will give you a gorgeous hit of basil underneath it all. But if you are pimping a store bought pizza and trying to be just that little bit gastro on a Wednesday before crashing on the sofa, then add it to your toppings. You may want to add extra pepperoni or other charcuterie meats along with mini mozzarella balls. Then drizzle your pesto over the top and into the pockets created by your additional toppings. If the pesto is a little dried out, add a teaspoon of olive oil until it is a bit more pourable.

pesto dip leftovers

4. Leftover Pesto Dip

You can use up a few other leftovers here as well. Greek yoghurt, leftover soft cheese, quark or creme fraiche. 2 tablespoons of pesto will mix well with around 300g of the ingredient of your choice. Stir through and serve with fresh bread or vegetable sticks. Carrots, cucumber and peppers work very well. You can also drizzle this mix over fresh vegetables as you serve them, that works well. Or even a tray of roasted vegetables.

pesto couscous

5. Coucous Pesto Salad

You can go as big as you want with this. Make up the amount of couscous you would normally need to feed your family. Now you can dollop on top and hope people will be happy with that as a side dish or you can go big on this one. Slice up any leftover olives, any of the moon blush tomatoes (see below) and any straggling vegetables in the fridge. You know a dozen green beans, some leftover roasted vegetables etc. Cook your spare green beans set to one side to cool. Add your cooked couscous to the pesto and olives etc and stir through (even frozen peas works well in this) then grate on top some fresh parmesan and tuck into this dish hot or cold.

6. Garlic Bread With A Twist

This is a weekend activity if you follow this recipe for focaccia from Inspired Taste. We wanted to give you a nice relaxed family weekend bread as making focaccia can be a lot of fun with kids or grown ups. Replace the garlic herb oil in this recipe with garlic pesto oil. To make garlic pesto oil, crush three cloves of garlic and put through a press. Add them to the jar of pesto, along with 1/2 cup (120ml) of olive oil. Close the lid and give a good shake. When you decant the jar make sure to really work all of the pesto out from the jar.

An alternate and slightly quicker idea is to take a baguette, sliced into 1 -2 inch sections. Lay them out flat on a baking tray and spread each slice with a little butter. With 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic added to your pesto, spread it out using a knife. Pop in the oven at 180C (350F) and leave to allow the baguette to crisp up and the pesto and butter to make the slices really crisp and herby. You can grate a little parmesan on top too. The kids will really like it and it is quick and pretty low on the washing up too.

7. Creamy Mash Potato

The nice thing about this is you can really take an everyday meal item and lift it with a bit of leftover pesto that would otherwise be thrown away. So make your mash as you would do normally, but hold back a little of the butter or cream that you would add, exchange it for the basil pesto you have leftover. It is as simple as that, you just need to stir it through. You can add toasted pine nuts or fresh basil to kind of really make the point clear, but it works equally well without.

8. Pesto On Soup

BBC Good Food have a great recipe for chicken soup, it uses up leftover roast chicken and a few vegetables that you would have in your fridge at any given time. This works very well with your basil pesto. Mix into the jar a good squeeze of lemon juice and around 1 teaspoon of olive oil for every 2 tablespoons of leftover pesto. Close the jar and shake well. Then as you are serving your soup, spoon a generous amount of the zingy pesto drizzle on top of your soup.

If you want to keep it vegetarian go for a classic tomato and basil soup and drizzle the pesto olive oil mix on top for an extra kick. Plus a little fresh parmesan added on top to make it look very much like a five star restaurant!

9. Use In A Dressing

This works very well with your rosa pesto. Choose if you want a dairy based dressing with yoghurt or a dairy free version with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The thing I like about this is it is instant, like 2 minutes maximum.

You will need; leftover pesto in the jar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Pop the ingredients into a bowl and mix together well. Then drizzle over your salad or steamed vegetables, roast potatoes. Basically you name it, it is improved by a pesto dressing!

pesto parmesan pinwheels

10. Pesto Pinwheels

You will need a packet of ready made puff pastry, Basil or tomato pesto, some fresh parmesan for grating, optional prosciutto or cheese.

Roll out your puff pastry and with a knife, spread your leftover pesto on top. Now if you would like to add prosciutto you can or any grated cheese. Cut this in half so that it is only half the width of the packet. Roll each of these and cut into 3/4 inch thick pinwheels. Put into the freezer for 30 minutes before putting into a preheated oven (200C / 390F) on a baking tray. 15 minutes later they should have puffed up a little and turned golden.

Just be aware if you add cheese you will get a slightly soggier pinwheel, a tasty one but not as crisp.

11. Pesto Mayonnaise As A Sandwich Spread

You can mix this in with any of your favorite filings. It is a great way to add a little zingy freshness to a packed lunch! Mix about 1 teaspoon of leftover pesto with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise for a simple sandwich lifting tasty solution.

You can really make your week day lunch special by using this on toasted bagels with a slice of brie and some salad. It really feels like you have spent a lot of money on a deli style lunch.

12. Toss Pesto Through Steamed Veggies

This is such a simple way to really elevate a weeknight meal. Even fish fingers, chips and peas is better for this! Take your steamed vegetables and toss through the remaining pesto. If the pesto is a little dry or looking a bit sad, but within best before date, squeeze a spot of lemon into the jar. Pop the lid back on and shake it up a little. A lot depends on how much you have left in the jar and whether you want it to be zingy or a little more unctuous. If the later, go for a healthy sized knob of butter in with the vegetables as well. Toss it all through and serve while still hot.

Before you do this you can adapt your pesto into a salsa verde or chimichurri to add a certain extra zing.

13. Basil Pesto Hummus

This is a bit of a two for one. If you make your own hummus and are the only person in the house who eats it, then you may want to give it new life on day three! So take your pesto and pop an extra 2 teaspoons of olive oil in, close the lid and give it the shake of it’s life. Then pour on top of your hummus instead of an extra olive oil drizzle. It just gives it a new twist and goes very well with raw vegetable sticks or as part of a larger starter with bread and couscous.

pesto sun dried tomatoes

14. Moon Blushed Tomatoes (Homemade Sundried Tomatoes)

These are slightly different to sundried tomatoes in that you will need an oven or dehydrator. If you are using a dehydrator you will need to use a tray inside each shelf. You will need :- 350g (12oz) cherry tomatoes halved, 2 tablespoons leftover pesto and 2 tablespoon olive oil. Mix the olive oil in your jar of pesto and give it a good shake (with the lid on). Lay your cherry tomatoes out with their juicy part upright (they wobble a bit which is part of the fun) and drizzle the pesto dressing over the top. Turn your oven on to the lowest hear setting it will go to, 70c or around 160F which would be gas mark 1. Leave in the oven for around 4-5 hours. The tomatoes will start to make an incredible smell and it is very tempting to eat a few at this early stage, hold strong and you will be rewarded with truly gorgeous, sweet little herby delights. Perfect for adding to salads, soups or even back into a pasta dish.

TOP TIP – We add a teaspoon of chopped rosemary as well, just for that extra earthy flavor. You can afford to be creative here and use any leftover herbs you have to hand.

Further Reading

  • Top Tips For Propagating Basil for anyone looking to grow their own fresh basil. This way I promise you, you will have a lot of leftover pesto as we tend to make it in batches when we have the time to.
  • What Is A Good Substitute For Basil is just for those of you who ended up here by a misdirect! Seriously though there are times when you need a quick guide to making do with what you have in your fridge or growing in the garden. Hopefully this will be useful at some point.
  • 37 Ideas For Leftover Basil Fresh Or Dried. This is just a deeper look into ways to use all of the basil you will be growing if you follow our tips! It is hard if you buy fresh ingredients for one specific meal, so we put together recipes and cocktails that needed a few leaves here and there.
  • My Zero-Waste Kitchen: Easy Ways to Eat Waste Free By Kate Turner. Kate’s book is a bit of nudge in the right direction, not a coverall bible, but more of a few things to remember and take on board. Very much for money saving and frugal tips for reducing waste.
  • here is a scary look at the impact of household food waste. I know that we hate it from a cost point of view but this article is kind of scary but essential reading for anyone looking to reduce their own waste.

What Next

If none of these ideas take your fancy it is possible to freeze pesto. Simply spoon the pesto into ice cube tray and put into the freezer until frozen (around 2 hours). Once they are frozen you can pop them out of the trays. Bag them up and store your frozen pesto in the freezer in useable blocks for around 6 months.

Why not sign up to our site and share your tips and tricks with others? We do love to go all out with meals and cooking some nights, but other nights we just share what we can make with the time and energy we have!

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