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A Cheaper Way to Make Pesto & 8 Weeknight Meals to Use It In

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I’m obsessed with pesto. I make countless variations using different herbs, nuts, and seeds.

Cold-Weather Pesto for All-Year Green (and a Soup to Put It In)

Cold-Weather Pesto for All-Year Green (and a Soup to Put ... by Caroline Lange

Make Any Pesto in 5

Make Any Pesto in 5 by Phyllis Grant


This version, from my recipe for portobello sliders in The Love and Lemons Cookbook, uses pepitas because, compared to pine nuts and walnuts, they’re cheap! They have a wonderful nutty flavor and bring a vibrant green color to my pesto.

Make a big batch of pepita pesto at the beginning of the week, slather it on your sliders, then use it make simple meals better all week long.

Portobello Sliders with Pepita Pesto
Portobello Sliders with Pepita Pesto

On Sunday, or at the beginning of the week, start by making:

  • 1 batch of portobello sliders
  • 2 batches of pepita pesto
  • A pot of your favorite soup (how about minestrone or lentil?) for later in the week
  • Pizza dough: You can let this version rise in the fridge for up to 3 days (or simply buy dough from the grocery store or a nearby restaurant)
  • A pot of grains for a grain salad (quinoa, farro, freekeh, wheatberries...)
Portobello Sliders with Pepita Pesto

Portobello Sliders with Pepita Pesto

Love and Lemons Love and Lemons
Serves 4

For the pepita pesto:

  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups cilantro (or basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey, optional (skip or replace with agave if vegan)

For the portobello sliders:

  • 8 small portobello mushrooms
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Tamari, for drizzling
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 8 slider buns, toasted
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 cup microgreens
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Go to Recipe

At the store, stock up on:

  • Seasonal produce for a grain salad
  • Large flour or sprouted grain tortillas
  • Whole grain bread
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Baby spinach
  • Pasta (and/or zucchini for making zucchini noodles during the summer)

Once you've done that, putting it all together is easy:

1) Make a big grain salad with fresh seasonal vegetables.

In the spring, I like to use artichokes and herbs; in the summer, sliced tomatoes and cucumber. Season it with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, then top it all with a big dollop of the pesto.

Photo by Jeanine Donofrio

2. That's a wrap.

Take your leftover grain salad and wrap it (with more pesto) in a large flour or sprouted grain tortilla. Add other bits and bobs from your fridge and pantry, too, like pickled onions, crumbled feta cheese, or sun-dried tomatoes.

3. Make tartines (a.k.a. fancy toasts).

Use whole grain bread, fresh mozzarella, avocado slices, and pesto.

Photo by Jeanine Donofrio

4. Breakfast for dinner.

Scoop the pesto onto eggs that have been scrambled with baby spinach and any leftover fresh mozzarella. Top with sliced avocado if you still have that, too.

Photos by Jeanine Donofrio

5. Make flatbread pizza.

After grilling or baking the pizza dough, spread ricotta over top, then plop down some figs (fresh or dried, depending on the season), arugula, some generous spoonfuls of pesto, and a drizzle of honey. Look: It's salad pizza.

6. The obvious but good choice.

Stir your pesto into hot pasta. Or for a greener summertime option, use zucchini noodles (or a mixture of zucchini noodles and regular noodles) instead.

7. Soup's up.

Stir the last bit of pesto into the soup you made earlier in the week—or use a store-bought version—to make it richer, fresher, and more delicious.

Photo by Jeanine Donofrio

What's your favorite way to use pesto? Add some inspiration in the comments!

Tags: Sauce, Pesto, Weeknight Cooking, On the Cheap, Dinner, Faster, Halfway To Dinner