Here in the Capital Region of New York, we were lucky to have been spared most of the wrath of Hurricane Irene. While our friends to the south had to scramble around preparing for the worst, all we really did was make sure that we had batteries for the flashlight. Shawn brought my basil plant inside to protect it from the wind, and I noticed that it was huge! I mean, comically large — practically a basil tree. It was clearly time to make pesto.

Since I knew I would be stuck home in the rain all day, I thought it might be nice to bake. I pulled out my copy of Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day, thinking I might find a recipe for garlic knots that I could use the pesto in. As I flipped through the pages, a recipe for 100% whole grain rosemary dinner rolls with a salt crust caught my eye. They weren’t like any other potato roll recipes that I’ve seen, which usually call for mashed potatoes to be worked into the dough. Instead, these called for raw potatoes, which soften as they bake but give the rolls a little bit of texture. I knew I had to try them!


I ended up modifying the recipe quite a bit — both to incorporate the pesto and to use flours that I had on hand (the original recipes called for a mixture of whole wheat, rye, and spelt). I was really happy with how they came out — the crust is nice and crispy and the inside is soft and pillowy. Plus, they couldn’t have been easier to make — they don’t even require kneading! From start to finish they take about 3 hours (but only about 20 minutes of that is active time), which made them the perfect rainy-day project.

These pesto potato rolls were delicious on their own (dipped in a little olive oil), but they were just calling to be served alongside a rich, tomato based soup like my tortelloni fagioli with fire roasted tomatoes.



Pesto Potato Rolls

Yields 16 rolls
Prep Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes; Total Time: 3 hours

These crusty dinner rolls have a crisp exterior, a soft, fluffy center, and a subtle pesto flavor throughout. They are perfect dipped in extra virgin olive oil and a little cracked pepper or dunked into soup. If fresh basil is unavailable, substitute 1/4 cup store-bought pesto and omit the basil, Parmesan, and olive oil.


  • 1.5 cups Whole White Wheat Flour
  • 1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt, divided
  • 2 cups fresh Basil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 12 Kalamata Olives, pitted
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1.5 cups lukewarm Water
  • 1.5 cups diced raw Potato, in 1/4 inch cubes


  1. Mix the flours, yeast, and 1 teaspoon salt in a 5-quart bowl.
  2. Add the basil, cheese, and olives to the bowl of your food processor or a blender. Pulse 5-10 times, or until basil is finely chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to process the pesto, until a smooth sauce forms. Add the pesto, water, and potatoes to the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, mix until the flour is incorporated. (The dough will be very sticky and soft.)
  3. Cover and let rest at room temperature until the dough has doubles in size – about 2 hours. After the dough has risen, keep covered ad refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to seven days.
  4. When ready to use, preheat the oven to 450F. Dust the dough with flour and divide into 16 portions. Roll each portion to form a smooth ball. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet and sprinkle the top of each roll with the remaining kosher salt. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer the cookie sheet to the middle oven rack. Fill a small dish with hot water and place on the top rack. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crusty and golden brown.



I’m submitting this post to YeastSpotting – a weekly roundup of baked goods.

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