Top chain restaurants are reworking classic pesto sauce to differentiate menus. Typically made with garlic, pine nuts, basil, Parmesan, salt and olive oil, the classic Italian sauce penetrates almost a quarter of Top 500 chain menus (22.6%), according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. Pestos getting modern revamps are swapping in various herbs and nuts or incorporating chili peppers and veggies. In each of the following examples, these swaps and additions more closely align the sauce with the overall dish, such as highlighting a seasonally inspired pesto for a fall dish. Here are some top chains modifying their pestos.
In October, Schlotzsky’s added four mac and cheese entrees to its permanent menu, two of which feature nontraditional pestos. Smokey Brisketeer Mac has canestrelli spiral pasta, smoked brisket, chipotle pesto, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, barbecue sauce and cilantro; and Shrimply the Best Mac consists of shrimp marinated in cilantro pesto over canestrelli spiral pasta and topped with cilantro, roasted red peppers and jalapenos.
Not Your Average Joe’s
Available on its fall menu, Not Your Average Joe’s Butternut Squash Flatbread appetizer is topped with sage-pecan pesto, roasted butternut squash, shaved Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella cheese and balsamic reduction. The $10.99 flatbread was available starting Oct. 14.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Ruth’s Chris Steak House offered a wine pairing menu Oct. 16-21 at participating restaurants. The menu featured five courses, each paired with a wine. The third course was a Wild Mushroom Ragout with scallion pesto and pan-seared polenta, paired with a red blend wine.