7 Recipes That Start with a Jar of Pesto Sauce

Chicken and Fontina Panini
Photo: Greg Dupree; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

We adore the Barefoot Contessa—don't get us wrong. But when Ina Garten says "store-bought is fine," sometimes it seems like it might…not be fine. As much as we wish we could waltz into Ina's garden and pick some fresh veggies with Jeffrey for an al fresco dinner, sometimes, supper looks like a box of pasta, a jar of sauce, and a bag of salad. And that really is fine, y'all! The Southern Living Test Kitchen pros know that real life is not Barefoot Contessa-esque, and it often means using store-bought shortcuts like rotisserie chicken and refrigerated tortellini. This collection of recipes makes the most of a simple jar of pesto from the market. There are plenty of delicious ways to dress up a jar of pasta sauce, and these recipes use bright and zingy pesto to add color and flavor. These recipes with jarred pesto sauce taste made-from-scratch, and your family and friends will be none the wiser.

01 of 07

Vanessa's Make-Ahead Beefy Lasagna

Vanessa's Make-Ahead Beefy Lasagna
Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

Recipe: Vanessa's Make-Ahead Beefy Lasagna

This might seem like a classic beef lasagna, but a jar of pesto sauce adds so much more flavor than your usual recipe. A combination of ricotta and cottage cheese makes for cheesy, creamy layers. The best part about this lasagna recipe is that you can freeze the unbaked lasagna for up to three months, which will come in handy during the busy holiday season.

02 of 07

Creamy Pesto-and-Shrimp Penne with Peas

Creamy Pesto-and-Shrimp Penne with Peas
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Creamy Pesto-and-Shrimp Penne with Peas

Pasta dinners are always easy, but this five-ingredient, 25-minute recipe could probably come together with your eyes closed (though we don't necessarily recommend that method). Since shrimp cook so quickly and a jar of refrigerated basil pesto (our Test Kitchen likes Bear Pond Farm Premium Basil Pesto) saves time, this is truly the family dinner your busy schedule needs.

03 of 07

Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole

Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole

Hot, cheesy, and oh-so-comforting, this is the pasta dinner you can always count on. We amped up store-bought Alfredo sauce with a bit of refrigerated pesto for even more flavor. Using rotisserie chicken is so much faster than cooking your own, and it makes this hearty pasta bake nice and filling. All you need is a fresh green salad and a warm baguette to complete this family-favorite meal.

04 of 07

Hearty Beef and Freezer Veggie Soup

Hearty Beef and Freezer Veggie Soup
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Hearty Beef and Freezer Veggie Soup

When the temperature starts to drop, there's perhaps no dish that instantly warms us up from the inside out like a bowl of beef soup. Convenient ingredients like frozen veggies, pasta, and canned tomatoes meet for a soup that's cozy and filling. The secret ingredient that sets this one apart from the others? A topping of basil pesto right before serving for a burst of flavor.

05 of 07

Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna
SL Van Chaplin

Recipe: Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

As if lasagna and ravioli weren't delicious enough on their own, we made a recipe that combines them. Layers of cheesy ravioli, pesto, Alfredo sauce, and fresh spinach make for an incredibly indulgent (yet meatless!) supper that the whole family will love. Since this recipe makes the most of store-bought shortcuts, it takes basically no effort on the part of the chef.

06 of 07

Chicken and Fontina Panini

Chicken and Fontina Panini
Greg Dupree; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Recipe: Chicken and Fontina Panini

Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, paninis are a convenient and delicious way to whip up a sandwich at lunch or dinnertime. With just five ingredients that include store-bought favorites like refrigerated pesto and rotisserie chicken, this sandwich is easy and filling. It would be delicious with a cup of homemade tomato soup on the side.

07 of 07

Grilled Chicken-and-Veggie Tortellini

Grilled Chicken-and-Veggie Tortellini
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: Grilled Chicken-and-Veggie Tortellini

A bag of tortellini is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get a hearty, kid-friendly supper on the table. Summer zucchini and tomatoes freshen up a dinner that uses convenience items like frozen tortellini and refrigerated pesto. Grilling the chicken and zucchini adds a bit of smoky flavor you'll love.

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