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Pesto 50 ways

Terri Chaffer from Love That Olive serves up flavorful variations to classic pesto.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Pesto is an amazingly versatile ingredient, and the perfect way to preserve summer flavors to enjoy now as well as all year round. Terri Chaffer, owner of Love That Olive loves to think of pesto as a condiment, sauce and “flavor infuser” all in one.

Terri joins us in studio to give us her tips on how to add some flavorful variations to classic pesto as well as inspire us with a few of the more than 50 different ways she likes to serve it.  To receive a copy of Terri’s list of “Pesto 50 Ways” simply email her at: team@lovethatolive.com.



Blend 8 C. packed basil leaves, 1 C. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), ½ C. toasted pine nuts, 2-4 garlic cloves and ½ tsp. salt in a food processor until almost smooth.
Stir in ½ C. fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Feel free to get creative with different varieties or flavors of EVOO. Some of Love That Olive owner, Terri Chaffer’s favorites are:

  • Organic EVOO
  • Primaiolo EVOO
  • Lemon EVOO
  • Orange EVOO
  • Garlic EVOO
  • Basil EVOO
  • Toasted Sesame oil

Pesto 50 Ways

** Variations highlighted in red are those Terri showcased on KARE 11.


1.        Pesto Meatballs: Mix 1 pound of ground turkey with ½ C. each breadcrumbs and pesto, and ¼ C. each milk and grated parmesan cheese.
Form into small balls and cook in a nonstick skillet with olive oil 10-12 minutes

2.        Meatballs in Pesto Cream: Make Pesto Meatballs; cook until just browned, add ½ C. chicken broth and ¼ C. pesto and simmer until tender.
Stir in ½ C. cream and simmer.

3.        Pesto Burgers: Make pesto meatballs but form into patties and grill. Serve on toasted ciabatta rolls with pesto, mozzarella, tomato and arugula.

4.        Pesto Pizza: Split a loaf of French bread and brush with pesto. Top with capicola, shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Broil until the cheese melts.

5.        Italian BLT: Spread pesto mixed with mayonnaise on toasted bread; fill with crisp pancetta, sliced tomato and arugula.

6.        Pesto Fritters: Mix 1 C. each ricotta and chopped spinach, ½ C. flour, ¼ C. each grated parmesan and pesto, and ½ tsp. baking powder, chill 30 minutes.  Deep fry pesto by dropping tablespoon amounts in *Avocado oil until golden, 4 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce.

7.        Pesto Butter: Mash ¾ C. pesto into 4 Tbsp. softened butter.

8.        Pesto Corn: Grill or steam corn, then brush with Pesto and drizzle with *Fior Fiore EVOO, sprinkle with parmesan.

9.        Pesto Sweet Potatoes: Bake sweet potatoes at 425˚F. until tend approx. 40 minutes. Quarter lengthwise and spread with Pesto and drizzle of *Fior Fiore EVOO.

10.      Pesto Cream Tortellini: Simmer 1 C. heavy cream with ¼ C. pesto in a skillet until slightly thickened. Stir in ¼ C. grated parmesan. Toss with 12 oz. cooked tortellini and 2 C. steamed broccoli.

11.      Ricotta-Broccoli Pasta: Toss 1 pound cooked bowtie pasta with ½ C. each pesto, ricotta and grated parmesan. Add 1 bunch of chopped steamed baby broccoli.

12.      Baked Pesto Gnocchi: Toss 1 pound of cooked gnocchi with 3 Tbsp. pesto and 1 Tbsp. *Garlic Olive oil in a baking dish. Sprinkle with grated pecorino (Romano type hard cheese) and broil until golden.

13.      Tuna-White Bean Pasta: Cook 1 sliced garlic clove in a skillet with 3 Tbsp. *Colle Monacesco Olive oil, 1 minute. Sir in ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 can each drained tuna and white beans, and ¼ C. pesto. Toss with 12 oz. cooked spaghetti and some torn fresh basil.

14.      Pesto Primavera Salad: Toss 12 oz. cooked penne with 4 C. steamed vegetables. Add 1 C. diced mozzarella, ¾ C. pesto and ¼ C. grated parmesan. Top with toasted sliced almonds.

15.      Potato-Pesto Pasta: Cook ½ pound gnocchi and ½ pound chopped peeled russet potatoes in boiling water until tender, 8-9 minutes. Drain and toss with ¼ C. pesto and some of the cooking liquid.

16.      Calamari-Pesto Pasta: Make potato-pesto pasta. Sauté 1 pound calamari in a skillet with *Primaiolo EVOO, 3-4 minutes. Toss with the pasta.

17.      Pesto Mussels: Sauté 4 sliced garlic cloves in a pot with olive oil until golden, 2 minutes. Ad 2 pounds of mussels and 1 C. white wine; cover and cook until the mussels open, about 4 minutes. Stir in 3 Tbsp. pesto.

18.      Pesto-Clam Linguine: Make pesto mussels using clams instead of mussels. Add ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and toss with linguine.

19.      Pesto Green Beans: Toss 1 pound steamed green beans with 3 Tbsp. pesto and juice of ½ lemon.

20.      Pancetta-Pesto Peas: Cook 4 oz. diced pancetta in a skillet with olive oil until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon. Add 1 bag frozen peas and 1 C. water to the skillet; simmer until tender, 10 minutes. Stir in 3 Tbsp. pesto and heat through.

21.      Pesto Orzo with Peas: Make Pancetta-Pesto Peas. Stir in 1½ C. cooked *Lemon Garlic Orzo and 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan.

22.      Pesto Potato Salad: Cook 2 pounds quartered new potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, 10-15 minutes; drain and slightly cool. Whisk 1 C. mayonnaise, 3 Tbsp. pesto and the juice of 1 lemon with the potatoes and 1 C. diced celery.

23.      Pesto Chicken Salad: Whisk 3 Tbsp. pesto with each mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir in 4 C. chopped cooked chicken, ½ C. chopped celery and ¼ C. each, red onion, walnuts and crisp bacon.

24.      Pesto Egg Salad: Whisk ¼ C. mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. each pesto and *Fior Fiore olive oil and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Fold in 8 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1 C. chopped celery and 2 Tbsp. minced red onion.

25.      Pesto Tuna Salad: Toss 2 cans drained tuna, 1 can drained chickpeas, ¼ C. chopped parsley, red onion and roasted red peppers, 3 Tbsp. pesto and 2 Tbsp. *Aged Balsamic vinegar.

26.      Pesto Succotash: 5 C. cooked corn, 1 C. sliced cherry tomatoes and ¼ C. chopped red onion in a skillet with 1 Tbsp. *Fior Fiore Olive oil until soft,
5 minutes. Add 2 C. lima beans and ¼ C. heavy cream; heat through, then add 2 Tbsp. pesto.

27.      Lemon-Pesto Dip: Whisk ½ C. sour cream with ¼ C. each mayonnaise, parmesan and pesto, 2 Tbsp. capers and 2 tsp. each of lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

28.      Pesto Hummus: Mix 1 C. hummus with 2 Tbsp. pesto. Top with chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and a dash of paprika.

29.      Pesto Croutons: Toss 4 C. bread cubes, 3 Tbsp. pesto and 2 Tbsp. *Truffle EVOO. Spread on a baking sheet, bake 20 minutes at 350˚F.

30.      Pesto Panzanella: Toss Pesto croutons with 2 Tbsp. *Aged Balsamic vinegar,
3 Tbsp. *Rosemary EVOO, some chopped tomatoes and cucumber, sliced red onion and more pesto.

31.      Pesto Salad: Whisk 2 Tbsp. * White Balsamic and ¼ C. pesto. Toss with baby greens and serve with baguette toasts spread with goat cheese.

32.      Pesto Caprese: Sliced fresh tomatoes, sliced Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, spread pesto in-between and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. *Garlic EVOO and serve.

33.      Pesto Quesadilla: Sauté ½ C. each sliced scallions, mushrooms and zucchini with some pesto, minced jalapenos and cilantro. Brown a flour tortilla in a skillet with *Fior Fiore EVOO. Top with vegetables, shredded muenster and another tortilla. Flip and cook.

34.      Pesto Grilled Cheese: Brush 2 slices rustic bread with pesto, then sandwich with sliced cheddar or provolone. Brush the outside of the bread with *Garlic EVOO and cook in a skillet over medium heat until golden.

35.      Pesto-Tomato: Cook ¾ C. chopped shallots and some fresh thyme in a pot with *Fior Fiore EVOO. Add 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 1 ½ C. water and ½ C. cream, simmer 20 minutes. Puree, and then stir in 3 Tbsp. pesto.

36.      Pesto Steak: Mix ¼ C. pesto, 2 Tbsp. *Aged White Balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. hot water. Grill or broil 1 ¼ pounds of skirt steak; brush with the pesto mixture.

37.      Pesto Frittata: Cook 1 grated zucchini in an ovenproof skillet with *Lemon EVOO Stir in ¼ C. chopped parsley and 2 Tbsp. each pesto and grated parmesan. Add 6 beaten eggs and cook until almost set, 3 minutes. Bake in a 350˚F. oven until set.

38.      Pesto Fried Chicken: Mix 1 C. milk and ½ C. pesto; add 3 ½ pounds chicken pieces and soak for 30 minutes. Dredge the chicken in 3 C. flour mixed with 1 tsp. each paprika, salt and pepper. Fry in 350˚F. *Walnut oil for 12-15 minutes.

39.      Pesto Wings: Marinate 2 pounds of chicken wings in ½ C. pesto and ¼ C. each *Aged White Balsamic vinegar, hot sauce and honey. Roast at 425˚F, 40 minutes. Toss with chopped basil and mint.

40.      Pesto Lamb Kabobs: Skewer 1 pound of cubed lamb and some onion. Brush with a mix of ¼ C. pesto and 1 Tbsp. *Aged White Balsamic vinegar. Marinate one hour, and then grill.

41.      Pesto Salmon Cakes: Mix 1 pound cooked flaked salmon with 1 C. panko, ¼ C. pesto, 1 egg and 1 Tbsp. lemon zest. Form patties; cook in an oiled skillet, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce mixed with pesto.

42.      Pesto Swordfish Mix: ¼ C. pesto with the juice of one lemon and 1 Tbsp. hot water. Spoon over grilled or broiled swordfish.

43.      Pesto Shrimp Marinade: Marinate 1 pound shrimp in 2 Tbsp. each pesto, *Garlic EVOO, add 1 lemon cut into wedges and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes. Grill about 3 minutes per side. Season with sea salt.

44.      Pesto Roast Chicken: Mix the juice of 1 lemon, 1/3 C. pesto, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes; rub onto a 6 pound chicken. Stuff with lemon and garlic. Roast in a 375˚F. oven, about 2 hours.

45.      Pesto-Sausage Chicken: Mix ½ pound crumbled sausage with ¼ C. pesto, chopped Shallot and 2 Tbsp. each breadcrumbs and pecorino (Romano type hard cheese). Stuff under the skin of 4 bone-in chicken breasts. Roast in a 375˚F. oven for about 45 minutes.

46.      Pesto Beans: Sauté 5 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet with *Fior Fiore EVOO. Add 2 C. prepared Cannelloni beans, ½ C. water and simmer until thickened, 8 minutes. Stir in 3 Tbsp. pesto and 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan.

47.      Pesto Bean Soup: Make pesto beans, add 3 C. chicken broth and 1 C. chopped celery, cook 15 minutes. Stir in 3/4 C. *Olive Salad. 

48.      Pesto Mash: Boil 3 pounds peeled russet potatoes until tender. Mash with 1 C. milk, ½ C. grated parmesan, ¼ C. *Basil EVOO and 3 Tbsp. pesto.

49.      Pesto Cornbread: Prepare an 8.5 oz. box of cornbread mix as the label directs, adding 3 Tbsp. pesto to the batter.

50.      Pesto Frites: Whisk 1/3 C. mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. each pesto and *Fior Fiore EVOO. Add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Serve with French fries.

*Available at Love That Olive Maple Grove