Pesto Breadsticks

I've mentioned before that I really got serious about learning to cook when I was living in my first apartment in college. My roommate Emily and I learned to cook from great teachers like Sara Moulton, Emeril and Martha Stewart. With all our time watching the Food Network, we kept hearing about this stuff called "pesto". It sounded amazing and the TV chefs put it on all types of food. We searched through several grocery stores and could never find it. I don't know why it never occurred to us to try and make it. We had attempted just about everything else we heard of - even pierogis. But making pesto never even crossed our minds and we finally decided that it would be impossible to find.

One Christmas when I was home in Vermont, I was grocery shopping with my mom and finally saw it on a shelf near the pasta sauces - a little jar of pesto. I convinced my mom that it was worth the ridiculous $5 that it cost, and I carefully tucked it in my luggage to bring back. The pesto and I both arrived safely back in Utah after that Christmas break and one of the first things I did was show Emily my score. We were so excited to finally get a taste of the elusive pesto. We weren't disappointed. It was incredible to us. Basil has to be my favorite herb, and pesto is a great way to show off its flavor. We enjoyed it on all kinds of food and we were so sad when the jar ran out.

Now I just laugh when I think about how mysterious pesto was, because it seems to be in all kinds of food and it is so easy to find. I've even made it myself, and I'll share my favorite low-fat recipe for it this summer when there's basil aplenty. (Right now, I don't think the little plant in my windowsill could provide enough. It's looking pretty stick-like from being harvested for a recipe I'll share next week.) Despite becoming a more regular part of my diet, I still think pesto is amazingly delicious and love to try its flavor on all kinds of foods. These breadsticks are a natural place to use it. I just love the flavor of pesto and bread. The breadsticks are soft, yet chewy, and filled with a pesto and parmesan. I'm not kidding when I say that my husband and I ate them for dinner one night. We liked them so much we just didn't feel like getting around to the main dish. Every once in a while, I think an unbalanced meal is okay. 

Especially when it has pesto in it.

Pesto Breadsticks


2 cups + 2 T bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/8 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 T water, warm

For Breadsticks
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Food Processor Method: 

1. Pulse 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor (fitted with a dough blade if possible) to combine. With the processor running, pour the oil, then the water through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer.

2. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 2 T of flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Hand-Mixing Method:

Whisk 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Add the oil and water and stir with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together and looks shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counted and knead by hand for form a smooth round ball, about 10 minutes, adding remaining flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise as directed in step 2.


Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Pat, then roll it into a 20" x 10" rectangle.
Spread the dough with the pesto, leaving 1/2" free of filling along the long edges. I find it easiest to do this by dotting bits of pesto all over the dough and spreading it out from there. Sprinkle with the shredded Parmesan.
Fold the dough in half so the long sides (free of filling) meet. Press together by rolling over the dough with a rolling pin. Cut into twenty 1" slices.
Place the slices about 1" apart on the prepared pan, twisting them as you lay them down. Brush with olive oil or garlic oil.
Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until puffy. (If you are in a hurry, I've skipped this step and the breadsticks aren't that much smaller.) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bake the twists for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm with pizza sauce or marinara, if desired.

Recipe Source: Dough adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

23 Click For Comments:

These are beautiful and so uniform in shape! There's no way I could have twisted each one so neatly. Pesto + fresh, hot bread sounds like an amazing combo...

These look AMAZING! Bread sticks are awesome on their own...add pesto- fantastic! I love how many recipes you can use pesto in. It adds such great flavor

omg cannot wait to try these!!! they look so gorgeous in your picture!

How gorgeous are these! I could eat a dozen as we speak!

Just found your blog... can't wait to look around. these breadsticks look DELISH!
Mini Baker

OMG do I love pesto and of course bread. This is the pefect marriage!!!!

First I just want to tell you that I LOVE the name of your blog...very clever! :)
Now onto the breadsticks... oh my goodness, I love this recipe! Pesto, bread, what's not to love?! Beautiful job!

Such great memories of cooking together, remember when we tried to make a galete de rois from Emeril? Disaster doesn't quite describe the result...

Thanks for a new pesto recipe, can't wait to try it. :)

Thanks everyone!

@Emily - Yes, I do remember those disasterous galette de rois. How could I forget? It was like the biggest flat donut in the world, stuffed with cream cheese. I think I ate half of one (you were smart and didn't eat as much of yours) and then laid like a beached whale in the living room for the rest of the day. Ahh, the joys of college. :)

haha...yes, everything does taste better with pesto. Such flavor in such a little package. Sara Moulton...oh my...I used to LOVE watching her! lol Your breadsticks look amazing!

Oh these are so pretty! What a great (and delicious) idea!

I love that story, I remember feeling the same way about many ingredients before I started cooking and baking on a regular basis :) These breadsticks are not only gorgeous, but they sound so good. Can't wait to try them!

These look almost too pretty to eat..almost! ;) I love the pesto inside!

These bread sticks look fresh! Esp tasty with the pesto!

I just found your blog through an Itzy's Kitchen comment - great recipes!! These sticks look awesome!

Nicole, if these taste only half as good as they look, you have a surefire winner on your hands. This is my first visit to your site and I've been browsing around. I really like the food and recipes you feature here. You've created a lovely spot for your readers to visit and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

I can almost smell these now! I know they taste as good as they look!

I love your pesto story and these breadsticks! They would be a delicious accompaniment to any pasta dish :) Good call by you and your roommate!

Your breadsticks look wonderful!

Can you use the regular blade on the food processor?  Also, can this be made in advance?

No, the regular blade on the food processor won't work to knead dough, but you can always knead it by hand. The dough can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Just let it come to room temperature on the counter for about an hour before shaping and baking.

Oooh these look sooo good! have been looking for some interesting bread sticks to make with left over pizza dough and this is IT! 

I just made them, whole family loved it :-) thanks!

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