Maybe I’m late to this game, but I have recently encountered a life changing food: pesto. I have worked it into every meal I’ve made in the last week. Pesto is a condiment/sauce/topping with origins from Italy. In its most basic form, it consists of basil, garlic and olive oil. You can also get different variations such as red pepper, with pine nuts or my personal favorite, sundried tomato.

Besides its indescribable deliciousness, pesto has multiple health benefits. A lot of people will take on look at the nutrition label, see the calorie count and put the bottle back on the shelf. Please do not be that person. Pesto is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron. The calories come from the unsaturated fats, the “healthy fats” which support heart health. I think the real health benefit comes from the fact that it is used as a substitute for things like mayo, creamy pasta sauces and ranch dressing.

For the ultimate pesto experience:

1. Use it on sandwiches.

Ditch the mayo or mustard and throw some pesto on your sandwich. It’s become my go-to with turkey, feta, spinach and tomato. Or try this amazing Red Pepper and Pesto Grilled Cheese


Photo by Libby Perold

2. Mix it in to your favorite dips. 

My other food necessity? Hummus. Pesto plus hummus is the way to my heart. Or, throw a spoonful of pesto into nonfat greek yogurt for a flavorful vegetable dip.

3. Make the ultimate salad. 

Pesto makes a delicious salad dressing. Plus, you can ditch the way over-used ranch dressing. Check out this Caprese Salad.


Photo by Megan Prendergast

4. Throw it on some pasta.

This was the gateway pesto recipe for me. Pasta is a college staple, and I’m always looking for ways to switch it up. There’s really no way to go wrong here, but if you want to impress, go for the Pesto Salmon Spaghetti or the Pesto Pasta with Chickpeas and Tomatoes.


Photo by Julia Maguire

5. Put it on your pizza.

Switch out the ranch or garlic sauce and pick up the pesto or try this Goat Cheese and Arugula Pesto Pizza.


Photo by Marci Green

Get creative with your pesto. Mix it into eggs with breakfast, dip your mozzarella sticks in it, add it to your favorite recipes. Pesto is your new best friend.

Also check out these killer ingredients to get more creative in the kitchen: