Making pesto pasta during the week is so simple (and delicious), especially if you use pre-made pesto. Making pesto pasta is fantastic because you can use a variety of meats, allowing you to use up any extra you may have in the fridge or freezer or to select the type of meat you prefer. But you should pick a meat that goes well with pesto.
Which meat pairs nicely with pasta pesto? Pasta with pesto sauce tastes great with chicken, shrimp, ground beef, bacon, pork chops, and other types of meat. You have a lot of options when it comes to the meat you use because pesto goes well with so many different kinds of meat! Continue reading to learn about the best options and how they pair with pesto pasta to assist you in choosing the ideal meat to use.
What Is Pesto?
Before deciding which meat to pair with pesto, it’s a good idea to understand what pesto is and what flavors it has. Pesto, also known as Pesto Alla Genovese, is an Italian sauce that originated in Genoa. Traditional ingredients include pine nuts, coarse salts, Parmigiano-Reggiano (or another hard cheese), basil leaves, and olive oil. All of these are crushed and combined to make a thick, paste-like sauce.
Pesto flavors are quite complex. The thick, green sauce is bright and herbaceous, but also rich and salty from the cheese, giving it a lovely depth of flavor that goes well with a variety of foods. The nutty, earthy flavor of pine nuts, the flavors of garlic, the creamy tanginess of hard cheese, the fresh, herbaceous flavor of basil leaves, the saltiness of coarse salt, and the beautiful flavor of olive oil are all present. It is not a cooked sauce and can be eaten as is, but it can also be cooked into a pasta dish or used as a marinade, among other things.
The Best Meat To Have With Pesto Pasta
To prepare a tasty, simple meal at home, read on to learn which meat pairs best with pesto pasta.
Chicken is unquestionably one of the best meats to pair with pesto pasta. It is mild-flavored meat, so it will not overpower the flavor of the pesto sauce, allowing the green, bright, and rich pesto sauce to shine. The pesto’s spice and saltiness help to cut through the chicken, especially when using thicker pieces — they make a great combination. When using chicken for pesto pasta, you want to use the right amount so that the pesto isn’t overpowering and there isn’t so much chicken that the pesto loses its flavor.
1 pound of chicken to 14 cup pesto is a good ratio to use. Cooking chicken for pesto pasta on the stovetop or in the oven is the best way to prepare it. You could even shred a rotisserie chicken for a super-quick dinner, cutting out half the cooking time!
When you want a pesto seafood pasta, shrimp is a great option. Shrimp is the perfect food to pair with pesto because of its nutty, earthy flavor and mild, buttery flavor. In addition to matching the nuttiness and butteriness of the pesto, the sweetness of the shrimp also counterbalances the pesto’s salty notes, making for a really well-balanced pasta dish. It is best to cook shrimp on the stove for a very brief period of time before adding it to pesto pasta.
When the shrimp is finished, it should be opaque and pink; be sure to take it off the heat at this point to avoid overcooking it and making it chewy. Use about 34 cup of pesto for every pound of shrimp when making shrimp pesto pasta. You’ll receive four servings of pasta from this.
3. Ground Beef
Because ground beef is such a versatile ingredient, it stands to reason that it would be a good choice for pesto pasta! Make sure to select ground beef with a high fat content. This will prevent the ground beef from becoming dry, chewy, and grainy in the pesto pasta — the extra fat will keep the ground beef moist and blend well with the pesto. If you use lean ground beef, try marinating it in olive oil before cooking it to give it a little more moisture when it cooks.
Beef has a stronger flavor than chicken or shrimp, but this isn’t a problem because the earthy pine nuts and rich cheese help to balance out the flavor of the beef without making it too dominant in the dish. Cook the ground beef in a pan on the stove, adding some chopped onion if desired; once cooked, combine it with the pesto and cooked pasta.
Making pesto pasta is incredibly simple and delicious when you use bacon as the meat. It is a rich, salty meat with a full flavor that balances the strong pesto flavors well. To make bacon for pesto pasta, cook it in a pan over the stove until it is crispy and golden brown, but not so crispy that it becomes difficult to eat. If you don’t feel like standing over a pan of bacon while it cooks, you could also grill it in the oven.
If you’re cooking bacon slices, chop them up after they’re done to add to the pasta in small, bite-sized pieces. This makes eating much simpler, and each bite will fill your mouth with a variety of flavors. To avoid having to chop up the cooked bacon, you could also cook bacon in dice. You can simply mix the cooked pasta with the pesto sauce after adding the cooked diced bacon!
Depending on the flavors you want in your pesto pasta, you can use either smoked or unsmoked bacon because they both pair well with the pesto’s flavors. One suggestion for using bacon with pesto pasta is to taste it as you go; the bacon will likely already have quite a bit of salt in it (along with the pesto).
5. Pork Chops
Pork chops, rather than bacon, are a good pork product to add to pesto pasta if you want a more meaty flavor than bacon. Pork chops can be seasoned to your liking, whether you prefer a simple salt and pepper mix or some garlic powder and other seasonings. Although the flavor is milder than bacon, you will still get that meaty taste and texture to complement the bold pesto. The best way to prepare pork chops for pesto pasta is to fry them in olive oil on the stove. This way, you can keep an eye on them as they cook and stop them when they’re cooked through and juicy.
Using olive oil in the pan can help keep the pork chops juicy while also giving them a nice crispy coating. Alternatively, you can bake the pork chops and they will still be juicy and moist. When the pork chops are done, cut them into bite-sized pieces and toss them with the pesto pasta! The milder flavor of the pork chops allows the pesto’s bold, rich, and fresh flavors to shine.
Who doesn’t enjoy a tasty steak? Steak pesto pasta is an absolute must-try if you’re looking for a novel way to eat steak. The fresh, salty flavors of the pesto complement the beefiness of the steak perfectly. Both steak and pesto are rich and flavorful meats, so neither will overpower the other and they will both retain their flavors well. The steak should ideally be cooked on the stovetop in some olive oil. To get a good crisp on the outside and a juicy, tender interior, add the steak to the pan when the oil is hot.
Whether you prefer your steak rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done, you can prepare it however you like. After the steak has finished cooking, slice or chop it and add it to the pesto pasta after letting it rest for up to 10 minutes. If you want more pesto or more steak in your pasta, you can adjust the ratio to about 12 cup of pesto to 1 pound of steak, which is a good starting point.
If you want to use poultry for your pesto pasta but are tired of using chicken, turkey is the next best option, and it pairs perfectly with pesto pasta. Turkey has a richer flavor than chicken, with earthy, darker notes, which complements the aromatic basil and garlic in pesto, as well as the creaminess from the cheese and olive oil. The gamier flavor of turkey will also add a different flavor to the pesto pasta, giving it a richer overall flavor.
Cooking turkey breasts, preferably on the stove, and then chopping the breast into bite-sized pieces to add to the pasta is the best way to prepare turkey for pesto pasta. You could also cook turkey mince in olive oil before adding it to the pesto sauce and mixing it in with the pasta.
Given that it requires little to no cooking or preparation, tuna may be the simplest meat to add to pesto pasta. To prepare the tuna, just open the can, drain the liquid, and combine it with the pesto sauce. The tuna could be heated up on the stove in a pan with a little of the liquid if you wanted to warm it up first. It helps to add some of the can’s liquid to keep it moist because you don’t want to heat it up too much and make it dry.
The fresh, aromatic flavors of the pesto go well with the tender texture and mildly fishy flavor of tuna. Because it doesn’t have a strong flavor, it balances the pesto and breaks down well to be simple to combine with the pasta, making it simple to eat as well.
If you’re looking for a more upscale dinner option, veal is a good choice. Veal is incredibly tender, and its rich flavor complements a wide range of dishes, particularly pesto pasta. The flavor profile of veal complements the earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet flavor of the pesto — the tenderness of the veal also contributes to the pesto pasta’s good texture. Cook the veal steaks on the stovetop until just done but still tender, then let them rest before slicing them up to add to the pesto pasta.
When added to pesto pasta, lobster and shrimp have a similar flavor and texture, but lobster is sweeter and meatier than shrimp. The salty, aromatic flavor of pesto pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of lobster, and the two ingredients work so well together. Make sure to cook fresh lobster until it’s done, but avoid overcooking it to the point where it becomes chewy and dry.
When using lobster meat, there are a lot of options available. To make it simpler, you could use canned lobster or even cook fresh lobster tails. Keep in mind that some frozen or canned lobster may already have salt added; therefore, when seasoning your pasta, take this into consideration. To enjoy the sweet, meaty flavor of the lobster with your pesto pasta, chop it up into bite-sized pieces.
Vegetable Options For Pesto Pasta
If you want to avoid meat and enjoy a meat-free pesto pasta, you can use a vegetable blend to create a delicious dish! Make pesto pasta with a combination of zucchini, tomatoes, summer squash, and bell peppers. This makes a delicious and light pasta dish that can be prepared in under an hour!
You have a wide variety of meat options to choose from when serving pasta with pesto. The rich, creamy cheese, the crisp, herbaceous basil, the nutty, earthy pine nuts, and the extra virgin olive oil give pesto a wonderful flavor combination. This flavor combination makes it the perfect sauce for a variety of meats, including poultry, seafood, beef, and pork. You can also just use the meat you have on hand.
Now that we’ve covered pesto pasta and the meats and vegetables that go well with it, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.
Do you eat pesto pasta hot or cold?
It really depends on how you like to eat it whether you prefer to eat your pesto pasta hot or cold. On a hot day, it tastes great served cold, but we believe that on a chilly evening, it tastes best served warm!
Can you eat pesto straight from the jar?
You can eat pesto straight from the jar, as it does not need to be cooked to be safe to eat.