Originally from Genoa, Italy, pesto gets its name from the Italian word ‘pestare’, which means ‘to crush’. For centuries, pesto was made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.
Genovese basil is a variety of basil that has earned a special place in the hearts of Italian food enthusiasts. The secret to pesto is in the kind of basil used for the recipe. Genoa's pesto is best made using basil grown across a few acres on the hills west of the city.
The other certified ingredients for this recipe are pine nuts, grated Grana cheese, Pecorino from Sardinia, garlic from Vessalico, sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil from Liguria. There is no questioning the method: you must use a mortar and make circular movements while adding some salt to the leaves. People nowadays use blenders, but be mindful that the heat coming from the blades ruins the leaves, takes out their beneficial oils, and results in a darker sauce. To avoid this, add two ice cubes into the blender after adding basil: the ice will prevent the heat and keep the sauce lighter without absorbing too much oil.
Pesto is available in many variations in southern Italy, some of which add almonds, mint, capers, and dried tomatoes. However, Genoa is considered by Italians the birthplace of real pesto. In addition to the authentic recipe from Genoa, the classic Italian pesto, we have some delicious and easy versions for you to try.
What goes into an authentic recipe for pesto sauce? The answer depends on who you ask, but the consensus is this tasty condiment originated in the port city of Genoa, located in the Italian region of Liguria. As we have mentioned, this beautiful region produces extra virgin olive oil, a special type of garlic and a particular variety of basil that results in a sublime pesto sauce. This penne pasta with pesto recipe is a quick and easy way to delight your taste buds. And for more gorgeous ideas, check out our traditional pesto pasta dish from Genoa, with pine nuts, green beans, Parmesan cheese and potatoes.
This vibrant and zesty kale pesto recipe from Love and Lemons is ready in under 10 minutes. The flavour isn't exactly like basil pesto – basil is more flavorful, while kale is more peppery – but it's still delectable. Nutty and intense, it's delicious on pasta and pizza. You can slather it on a sandwich and incorporate it into quinoa or grain bowls. Or spoon it over eggs – the options are endless.
In this fresh and easy arugula pesto recipe, pesto is reinvented with arugula instead of basil to make a bright, peppery addition to pasta, chicken, fish or steak. This creamy variation to the classic basil enhances countless dishes. Garlic plays a prominent role in this sauce, as it does in most pestos. This vibrant interpretation can also be used with risotto – made with rice, barley, or wheat – or enjoyed on its own, spread over thick slices of perfectly charred bread.
Pesto made from cilantro is exceptionally versatile, and it's perfect for various dishes – from salad dressing or a sandwich spread, to a tasty sauce for chicken or pasta. It's a nice change from traditional pesto made from basil. This recipe from Tasting Table makes half a cup of cilantro pesto, but don't let its size fool you; there's a lot of flavours packed into one small dish.
This red pesto recipe from Great Italian Chefs is a sweet and delicious alternative to green pesto, featuring roasted red peppers – with their smoky flavour and bright colour – and umami-rich sun-dried tomatoes. Red pesto (or ‘pesto rosso’ in Italian) is delightful with pasta, and it’s also fantastic as a pizza or bruschetta sauce. You can also serve it with roast chicken or spread it over salmon or white fish fillets. Red pesto is also a great addition to salads when stirred through cooked and cooled grains with freshly chopped herbs or spring onions.