The Creamy Ingredient Ina Garten Uses For Decadent Pesto Pasta

When it comes time to harvest those victory gardens, there is no better way to use all those beautiful green herbs like basil, cilantro, thyme, and rosemary than in a bright and fresh pesto. And when it comes to pesto, Ina Garten is a fan of this classic green sauce. When the Barefoot Contessa makes her version of this sauce, she uses traditional ingredients like pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and basil, in addition to walnuts and spinach. Nothing out of the ordinary, but to make for a decadent pesto pasta, she also adds a creamy condiment. 

During a segment of "Barefoot Contessa," Garten revealed she uses mayonnaise to create a thick, buttery pesto sauce for her Pasta, Peas and Pesto dish. Mayo has many superpowers: It can make a cake moist, be the edible glue to hold a potato salad together, and it's kind of essential for sandwich lovers. But mayo is an unexpected addition to pesto. So, what does it add to this sauce? 

Mayo, typically comprised of oil, egg yolks, vinegar, and spices, will change the taste of your pesto, making for a smoother, creamier taste on your tongue. Why does it work? The condiment's ingredients are complementary to those that are used to make pesto. This spread's tangy taste adds a new depth and element of flavor while creating a texture that is velvety and delicious.

The perfect pairing for pasta

As Garten cooked up her Pasta, Pesto, and Peas on "Barefoot Contessa," she started with a quarter of a cup of walnuts, a tablespoon of pine nuts, three cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper, all of which she threw into a food processor before puréeing them with one and a half cups of basil and about a third of a cup of olive oil. From there, Garten added parmesan cheese, a half a package of de-thawed frozen chopped spinach, three-quarters of a cup of mayo, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Then, after mixing the puréed ingredients with the pasta, Garten added peas and more parmesan, salt, and pepper.

"This is a really great sauce on pasta because it's spicy and it's flavorful," Garten says.

If you are feeling curious about adding mayonnaise to your pesto, start with just a couple of tablespoons and see how your taste buds feel about this addition before fully committing. Of course, if you are not a fan of mayo and shun it completely but still want to achieve the rich and flavorful effect, you could try adding yogurt to create a creamy pesto. Additionally, cream cheese will give you the same yummy consistency.