8 Fast & Easy Appetizers with Pesto


I am a big fan of appetizers. In fact, my favorite meal is an all-appetizer meal. Tapas restaurants have been popping up in recent years, and they have exactly the kind of menus I love--a variety of lots of little delicious tastes.

As I mentioned in a previous post explaining How to Make and Freeze Pesto, I'm also a big fan of pesto. It is so versatile, and I like to keep it in my freezer for adding flavor to numerous dishes.

Today, I'm going to share some ideas for combining these two food loves: appetizers and pesto. These are all so fast and easy to make. I wouldn't ever serve all of these at  one time--that would be too much pesto even for me. But, I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make one or two of these--assuming there is pesto in my freezer. So, they are my go-to recipes when I need a quick last-minute appetizer.

Most of these are so easy, they don't really require an actual recipe. As long as you have pesto on hand, the pictures below reveal most of what you need to know. I'll fill in a few ingredient details; but as you will see, not much explanation is required.

Appetizer #1:
Pesto Pinwheels

opening pinwheel

This is my twist on an appetizer you may have had before with different ingredients. I like these, because you can make them ahead and keep them in the fridge over night.

Here are the ingredients: 2 Tablespoons of pesto, 8 oz. package of Neufchâtel cream cheese (this is softer than regular cream cheese and has 1/3 less fat), jar of roasted red peppers or pimentos, chopped walnuts, flour tortillas (I used both white and whole wheat)

First, make a spread by mixing the Neufchâtel cream cheese with the pesto. It's easier to mix if you let the Neufchâtel soften to room temperature first. This makes enough to spread on 4-6 tortillas, depending on the size of your tortillas.spread in bowl

Spread the cream cheese on a flour tortilla. I used 4 Tablespoons of the cream cheese spread on a 7" tortilla. Add the roasted red pepper strips or pimentos.

spread on tortilla  peppers on tortilla

Add 1/8 cup chopped walnuts. Roll up the tortilla.

walnuts on tortilla  rolling tortilla

I made one roll with a whole wheat tortilla and one with a white tortilla. The color variety looks pretty on the plate.

ww rolled tortilla  white rolled tortilla

Wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap and let them refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can make them up the day before and keep them refrigerated until you're ready to serve them. Cut them into 1 to 1-1/2 inch pieces.

pinwheels on plate  pinwheels side view

Aren't they pretty? Enjoy!

pinwheel final

Click to view and print Pesto Pinwheels recipe


Appetizer #2:
Pesto Cheese Spread on Crackers

Little explanation required here. Make the same pesto and Neufchâtel cream cheese spread used in the Pesto Pinwheels above. Spread it on crackers. Top the crackers with sliced veggies, chopped nuts, olives, sliced apple . . . use your imagination. Simple and tasty. Done!

spread on crackers

Click to view & print Pesto Cream Cheese Spread recipe


Appetizer #3:
Pesto Dipping Oil for Bread

oil opening

At Italian restaurants, a small bowl of olive oil is commonly served with slices of bread for dipping. For some extra flavor, add 1 Tablespoon of pesto to 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. I serve it with sliced white and whole grain baguettes. 

oil white  oil wheat

Click to view & print Pesto Dipping Oil with Bread recipe   


Appetizer #4:
Pesto and Feta Mushrooms

mush opening

These are soooo delish!

Ingredients: button mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), olive oil, feta cheese, pesto.

First, remove the stems from the mushrooms. If they don't pop out easily, you may have to dig a little with a knife. Brush or spray the outside of the mushrooms with a light coat of olive oil.

mush in box  mush stemless

Fill each mushroom cap with crumbled feta cheese, and top them off with a dollop of pesto (the amounts will depend on the size of your mushrooms--just fill 'em up).

mush feta  mush pesto

Now bake them at 350° for approx. 15 minutes. The time may vary according to the size of your mushrooms. I love these little goodies. Yum!

mush final

Click to view Pesto & Feta Mushroom recipe

Pesto, Mozzarella, and Veggie Skewers

skewer opening

These are fun to serve because not only do they taste good, but they are also colorful and pretty!

Ingredients: small fresh mozzarella balls, pesto, tomatoes (I used mini heirloom tomatoes), avocado. You can substitute other veggies of your choice.

First toss the mozzarella balls with some pesto. I mixed 1 cup of mozzarella balls with 2 Tablespoons of pesto. Let that marinate in the fridge for at least a half hour.

cheese balls in pesto

Use cocktail toothpicks or skewers and load them up with the veggies and marinated mozzarella balls. These flavors work so well with the pesto. Beautiful, easy, tasty!

skewers close up

Click to print Pesto Mozzarella Veggie Skewers recipe


Appetizer #6:
Pesto Crostini

crostini opening

Another easy one.

Ingredients: sliced baguettes (I used a combination of white and whole grain), pesto, grated cheese (I used pecorino romano)

First, toast the bread slices on both sides under the broiler.

bread on tray  toasted bread

Spread each slice with pesto, sprinkle with grated cheese.

pesto on toast  cheese on toast

Return to the broiler until the cheese has melted. That's it! Easy.

crostini final

Click to view & print Pesto Crostini recipe

Appetizer #7:
Pesto Cottage Cheese Dip with Veggies 

veggie dip opening

This dip is so healthy and tasty. Mix 1 Tablespoon of pesto with 1/2 cup cottage cheese (I used low fat). That's it. What could be easier than that? It is so good for a quick veggie dip. You can also use sour cream or yogurt in place of the cottage cheese.

veggie dip closeup

Click to view & print Pesto Cottage Cheese Dip recipe


Appetizer #8:
Pesto and Brie

brie opening

I left my favorite for last. This is so fast to assemble, and unbelievably good.

Take a wedge of brie cheese (you can substitute a block of cream cheese, if you don't like brie), spread it with 3-4 Tablespoons of pesto, sprinkle some pine nuts on top, and serve it with crackers.

I could eat this whole thing all by myself. That would be embarrassing, but I could do it if there weren't any witnesses. It is that good. King-Man likes it, too.

brie final

Click to view and print Pesto & Brie recipe


So, there you have 8 appetizers you can make using that pesto you made and put in your freezer. . .you did make and freeze pesto, now didn't you? If not, give it a try. It is what I call the ultimate convenience food. Make it now, and you'll be ready to create lots of appetizers in the future. And there are more recipes on the way.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes or come up with variations of your own. I always love hearing from you.

Make it a yummy day!


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Posted on Friday, September 3rd, 2010

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