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What is Pesto?
A typical Italian sauce, pesto is now popular across the globe. This article deals with some information about the sauce and its preparation method.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Jul 21, 2017
Italian sauces come in different types, like marinara, bolognese, puttanesca, alfredo sauce, balsamella, etc. Pesto is a popular Italian sauce that is used in pasta, pizza, bread, salad, and a host of other food items. This sauce originated in Genoa, which is located in the Liguria region of northern Italy. You may come across different types of pesto sauce, but pesto genovese (Genoese pesto) is said to be the original. The original sauce is also referred to as pesto alla genovese.
As per the Genoese recipe, pesto is made of basil leaves, crushed garlic, pine nuts, grated hard cheese, salt, and olive oil. Traditionally, this sauce is prepared by grinding these ingredients in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. The name 'pesto' is derived from the Italian (Genoese, to be precise) word, pestâ, which means to pound or crush. Even the English word 'pestle' is said to be derived from this Italian word.
Different Types of Pesto Sauce
In France, pesto (called pistou) is prepared using ingredients, like crushed garlic, olive oil, parsley, and basil. While grated cheese is optional, pine nuts are not at all used. Another popular form is pesto alla siciliana, which is said to be originated in Sicily (Italy). Otherwise known as pesto rosso, this red-colored sauce is made with crushed garlic, tomatoes, less amount of basil, almonds instead of pine nuts, and olive oil. Another version is pesto alla calabrese from Calabria in southern Italy.
In this type, black pepper and grilled bell peppers are also used. While in some German pesto versions, basil is replaced with ramson leaves, in some other regions, arugula is used in place of basil. Some types are made with cashews instead of pine nuts. So there are several variations of this sauce, but pesto alla genovese is said to be the original.
Pesto Sauce Recipe
You may either prepare pesto (pesto alla genovese) in a food processor (takes 10 minutes) or with a hand mortar (takes around 30 to 40 minutes). In order to prepare this sauce, you require the following ingredients.
  • Garlic cloves - 2 to 3 (chopped)
  • Pine kernels - 25 g
  • Basil leaves - 4 packs (or 2 packed cups)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese - 50 g
  • Olive oil - ½ to ¾ cup
  • Sea salt (granular) - 1 tsp.
Method of Preparation
Wash the basil leaves and allow them to dry. Meanwhile, you can toast pine nuts over medium heat. If you are using a food processor, all you have to do is to combine all the ingredients and run the device for a few seconds, till they form a green creamy sauce. In case of a hand mortar, crush garlic and salt, and when it is almost done, add pine nuts. Pound them well, before adding basil leaves in three to four batches. Once done, add grated cheese and grind for a few minutes. Add olive oil and blend well. Your pesto sauce is ready. As per this recipe, you can prepare sauce for Italian pasta that can be served to around eight people.
Pesto sauce is perfect for Italian foods, like pasta, pizza, and soups. It can also be used as a topping for bread, cooked meat, and fish, and as an ingredient in certain types of stuffing. There are umpteen ways of using pesto. You may either buy this sauce from the market or prepare it at home.
Basil pesto
Italian pesto
Pesto alla genovese
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