Pesto really doesn’t need anything other than a box of dried pasta to make a meal if you’re short on time or energy. If you purchase it but need to pivot plans for last-minute parties, it’ll keep just fine in the pantry. Plus, pesto brings fresh, summer energy to dinner when it is cold and dark outside.
To give pesto pasta a little extra oomph, I add a bit of chopped cooked Italian sausage and Kalamata olives. Both ingredients can be stored for a long time, so they fit right in with the pantry ethos of the dish. Browning the sausage in a bit of olive oil heightens its flavor and renders some of its fat — save this mixture to brown a large handful of panko breadcrumbs when serving. A little extra crunch goes a long way to bring texture to this otherwise relatively soft dish, and infusing the breadcrumbs with the flavor of the sausage brings the whole dish together.