Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy. From the time pesto was invented culinarily speaking, has not changed.
The recipe has always consisted of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and including Fiore Sardo, a cheese made from sheep’s milk.
It is possible the mineral-rich seaside soil and temperate climate of Liguria is why pesto sauce has become a beloved sauce in northeren Italy, as they have the perfect conditions for growing basil.
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The Meaning of Pesto
The Italian word for pesto is – pestare – which means to pound, or to crush. Pesto was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle.
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The ingredients were pounded or crushed with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar.
The book “Pesto Genovese: An Ageless Benchmark of Great Italian Cuisine” – writes that the ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, prepared by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together.
Because the term pesto is a generic word for anything that is made by pounding or crushing, that leaves the original pesto sauce recipe open to flexible and differing ways to prepare the sauce. In other words, pesto sauce is versatile.
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Flexible Ways To Prepare Pesto Sauce
In accent Provence, France the pesto was prepared without using pine nuts, as no pine trees grow there to provide the nuts.
Differing Italian cheeses can also be used, such as Asiago or Romano cheeses in place of Parmesan.
The interchangeable use of the nuts, cheese and greens just depends on your taste.
Making Pesto Sauce
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, no stems
¼ cup pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves
½ cup grated Romano/Parmesan or Asiago cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients in a food processor, except oil, and pulse. Start to add oil slowly, pulsing until ingredients form a smooth paste.
Note: If you do not use right away, or there are left overs, store in a jar with a layer of olive oil on top to prevent discoloration, and top jar with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator. Will store for 3 to 5 days.
You’ll enjoy these Italian dishes with pesto sauce.
- Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage
- Orecchiette With Andouille Sausage & Pesto Chipotle Sauce
- Gluten-Free Creamy Pesto Fettuccine
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