Pesto Is Magic

By Debbie Koenig

I keep a few quick-dinner workhorses in my kitchen: canned tuna and beans, frozen vegetables, Little Gram’s Sauce, and whole wheat pancake mix. But in the summer, when huge bunches of basil beckon at the farmers market, none of them gets called into action as often as the jar of homemade pesto I stash in the fridge. Bright-tasting and versatile, it’s used at least once a week and often more. (The Weight Watchers recipe, which has only 3 SmartPoints® value per serving, replaces most of the olive oil with chicken broth.) In well under half an hour, I can turn it into dinner:

  • With pasta, of course. While the pasta cooks I add vegetables, either by slipping chopped greens, broccoli, or green beans into the pot for the last few minutes, or by putting chopped raw tomatoes or leftover grilled or roasted vegetables into the pasta bowl along with the pesto.
  • As a flavor boost for salad dressing. Usually it’s as simple as thinning the pesto a bit with lemon juice or chicken broth, then tossing with a hearty combo of vegetables and beans or tuna.
  • Instead of red sauce on pizza. For this I buy dough at the pizzeria down the street, then top with a thin schmear of pesto and tons of vegetables, with just a bit of mozzarella. (Weight Watchers has a super-fast version using a flour tortilla!)
  • To perk up plain meats. Fire up the grill (or grill pan) and cook chicken breasts, steak, or burgers, then serve with pesto on the side.
  • As a sandwich spread. My all-time favorite: leftover cooked chicken breast, arugula, and jarred roasted red peppers, with a light coating of pesto on one side of the bread.
  • With eggs, either stirred into a scramble or inside a vegetable omelet.
  • In an easy Caprese salad. Alternate slices of at-their-peak summer tomatoes and a ball of fresh mozzarella (it’s 3 SmartPoints value per ounce, so go easy on that!). Thin pesto with a bit of lemon juice or red wine vinegar and drizzle on top.
  • With virtually any vegetable. Check out this Weight Watchers recipe for Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Homemade Pesto.

If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, the Recipe Database has some yummy-looking options:

Read more Picky Kid, Busy Mom