I hoard recipes on Pinterest like I’m preparing to cook 3 meals a day for 500 people for 50 years. I’m not that great about making them, either, except for the sweet potato and kale recipe that became a fast favorite. But as it is fall and new vegetables are coming into season, I promised myself I’d cook more and try to be a little more creative than my typical tofu stir fry.

The beauty of the recipes I’m sharing is that they both involve one of my favorite spreads/sauces, the great equalizer, the one, the only: PESTO. Pesto makes anything taste fancier in a matter of 0.2 seconds. Now I’m not a cooking saint, so I don’t make my own pesto (although I’ve heard it’s easy), but in my defense I love TexaFrance pesto so much that I don’t think anything I make would come close.

Anyway – with the pesto and fairly easy prep of these two recipes and my lazy cook modifications, you can impress anyone into thinking you have more cooking chops (pun always intended) than you do. I can also guarantee you right now that my parents are reading this and saying, “Why didn’t I get to reap the benefits of any of this?!”

Here they are:

1. Grilled Polenta with Pesto, Tomatoes & Zucchini

grilled polenta with pesto and tomatoes
pin it dose of dash

I modified this Food52 recipe slightly to make it an even easier, stuff-I-already-have meal.

  • Polenta/cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • Sun dried tomatoes or tomato paste
  • Hard, grated cheese such as parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pesto
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap.
  2. Make polenta according to instructions on package and make sure to stir often.
  3. Pour the polenta into the baking sheet and spread it out with a spatula so that it is about even all the way across. Then cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge to cool while you prepare everything else.
  4. Cut the zucchini into wide, thin strips. A mandolin makes this a lot easier.
  5. Preheat the oven by turning on the broiler.
  6. Cut the polenta into rectangular shapes and place on another baking sheet lined with either aluminum foil or parchment paper (not wax paper!).
  7. Brush the polenta on each side with a small amount of olive oil and then put in the oven for a few minutes until the polenta starts to get golden and crispy on both sides (about 3 minutes each side).
  8. Take the polenta out of the oven and spread pesto on each piece. Top with dried tomatoes or tomato paste and thin strips of zucchini. Finally, drizzle with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and parmesan.
  9. Broil until the zucchini looks golden.
  10. Devour with zest!

2. Roasted Butternut Penne with Pesto

roasted butternut squash with penne
pin it dose of dash

I also slightly modified this recipe from Sprouted Kitchen

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika (I used a random mix of turmeric, ginger, pepper, and cumin and it was still fine – it really depends on what tastes good to you.)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated nutmeg
  • Penne pasta
  • Pesto
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and put the water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Peel and remove seeds from the butternut squash and then cut into cubes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the squash with enough olive oil to coat it, paprika, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then spread the squash out evenly on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake squash for 20 – 30 minutes or until edges have browned a bit
  5. Cook the pasta as directed and drain.
  6. Combine the pesto, pasta, and butternut squash, garnish with parmesan and stuff your face.

What have you been making lately?

Pictures are from original recipe sources.