Pesto is one of the most popular sauces out there and for good reason. Originating from the Genoa region of Italy, pesto sauce in its traditional form - also known as pesto alla genovese - is made up primarily of basil, hence its rich green color, along with cheese, salt and pine nuts. Fresh and flavorful, this Mediterranean favorite has spread across the globe and can be found everywhere from the creative kitchens of passionate home chefs to esteemed menus of Michelin-starred restaurants.

Aside from pasta sauce, what else can we bring to the kitchen when it comes to cooking with pesto? Read on and RiceSelect® will let you in on plenty of pesto ideas that’ll help you to up your chef game!

How to Make Pesto

Discover how easy homemade pesto can be with this recipe from @TheBakerMama:

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup pine nut
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  1. Combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until well combined.

  2. Add the olive oil and continue to pulse/blend, scraping down the sides as needed, until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Now that you know how to make a classic pesto sauce, feel free to tweak the ingredients and make this zesty sauce your own.

Read on as we guide you through some elevated recipes with pesto.

Saucy Appetizers

Elevate your culinary experience by savoring pesto’s flavors as a dipping sauce served in a ramekin or as part of an elegant charcuterie board. For example, drizzle pesto on top or serve as a dipping sauce for quinoa pizza bites. Dig a little deeper and delve into these various appetizer recipes where you’re bound to find plenty of snacks that can feature this classic Genovese sauce.


Pesto can be enjoyed chilled, which is why it makes a great option for salads. Taste how delicious it is in this Pesto Rice Salad. Loaded with cherry tomatoes, corn, red onion and goat cheese, this summer salad is a refreshing combination! Explore different ingredients and make salads for any event whatever the weather. No matter the season, adding pesto to the mix means extra flavor.

5 Quick Tips for an Elevated Salad with Pesto

1. Pack with Protein: Adding protein – such as chicken or fish – makes a heartier and tastier dish. Pesto complements grilled chicken or shrimp by adding a flavorful, herbaceous and garlicky touch to savory meat or seafood.

2. Go Green: Looking to get a well-balanced flavor combination? Opt for a mixture of greens. For peppery notes, include some arugula. To enhance the nutty notes of the sauce, add some kale. Searching for a hint of sweetness? Spring for some spinach!

3. Load up on Veggies: Don’t shy away from vegetables that have light and refreshing tastes and textures. Tomatoes and cucumbers complement pesto and are as aromatic as they are delicious!

4. Easy Cheesy: Pick a quality cheese, grate it or cut it up into small chunks to upgrade your salad. Look for a salty mozzarella or double down on Parmesan: these cheeses tend to create an irresistibly creamy combination of flavors.

5. Don’t Forget Fruit: Both fresh or dried fruits work wonders in salads. Dried fruits like raisins, in particular, provide a distinct yet pleasant contrast of textures and flavors.


We’d be remiss not to include creamy pesto risotto options! Once you know how to make the perfect risotto, it’s only a matter of trying out tasty new techniques to perfect your recipe repertoire! Cooked in chicken broth and served with fresh basil, this Pesto Chicken Risotto Recipe truly is rich in flavors! If you’re looking to experiment with cooking with flowers, this Spring Greens Risotto gives you the chance to taste dandelion pesto! For just a touch of pesto, add a dollop of the zesty sauce to a Classic Mushroom Risotto!

Pesto Pizza

Although tomato sauce may be seen as the classic pizza sauce, pesto is a tasty option that can enhance the overall flavor and pairs beautifully with cheese, tomato and various other satisfying ingredients. When making pesto, keep these things in mind:

  • Mix pesto with other sauces for an irresistible balance of flavors. Craving a twist on classic pizza pie? Use alternating dollops of tomato and pesto sauce. For a creamy pesto pizza sauce, add the herb sauce with Alfredo on Mushroom Pancetta Quinoa Pizza Pie.

  • A little goes a long way, so use a thin layer of pesto to avoid overpowering other toppings.

  • Choose toppings that pair well such as grilled chicken, roasted peppers, or fresh mozzarella.

  • Be mindful of cooking time to prevent burning. For example, our Jasmati® Rice Supreme Pizza Crust should cook just until lightly browned.

  • Get a herbaceous boost by garnishing your pie with fresh herbs like basil or parsley after baking.

With RiceSelect®, creating unforgettable dishes is easier than ever! Cooking with pesto is one of the joys of Italian cuisine and gives home chefs the opportunity to get creative! For more culinary inspiration from around the globe and innovative cooking hacks to go with it, stay tuned to our latest tips, tricks and recipe ideas.