Pesto is traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. First, garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then the washed and dried basil leaves are added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino added. To help incorporate the cheese a little extra-virgin olive oil is added. In a tight jar (or simply in an air-tight plastic container), covered by a layer of extra-virgin olive oil, pesto can last in the refrigerator up to a week, and can be frozen for later use.
Pesto is commonly used on pasta, traditionally with mandilli de sæa ("silk handkerchiefs" in the
|Linguine with basil pesto|
It is sometimes used in minestrone. Pesto is sometimes served with sliced beef tomatoes and sliced boiled potatoes.
Pesto comes in a variety of recipes, some traditional and some modern, as the very noun pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding.
Pesto alla genovese, the quintessential pesto recipe, is made with Genovese basil, coarse salt, garlic, Ligurian extra virgin olive oil (Taggiasco), European pine nuts (sometimes toasted) and a grated cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano and pecorino sardo or pecorino romano.
A slightly different version of this sauce exists in Provence, where it is known as pistou. In contrast with pesto alla genovese, pistou is generally made with olive oil, basil and garlic only: while cheese may be added, usually no nuts are included in a traditional pistou because no pine trees grow there to provide the nuts. Pistou is used in the typical soupe au pistou, a hearty vegetable soup with pistou flavour. The sauce did not originally contain basil, however; instead, cheese and olive oil were the main constituents.
Sometimes almonds are used instead of pine nuts, and sometimes mint leaves are mixed in with the
|Fettuccine with Pesto alla genovese|
Pesto alla siciliana, sometimes called pesto rosso (red pesto), is a sauce from Sicily similar to pesto alla genovese but with the addition of tomato, almonds instead of pine nuts, and much less basil. Pesto alla calabrese is a sauce from Calabria consisting of (grilled) bell peppers, black pepper and more; these ingredients give it a distinctively spicy taste.
Outside Italy, the household name pesto has been used for all sorts of cold sauces or dips, mostly without any of the original ingredients: arugula (instead of or in addition to basil), black olives, lemon peel, coriander, or mushrooms. In more northern countries, ramson leaves are sometimes used instead of basil. In the 19th century, Genovese immigrants to Argentina brought pesto recipes with them. A Peruvian variety, known as "tallarines verdes" (meaning green noodles, from Italian tagliarini), is slightly creamier, lacks pine nuts (because of their rarity and prohibitive cost in Peru), may use spinach and vegetable oil (in place of olive oil), and is sometimes served with roasted potatoes and sirloin steak.
Vegan variations of pesto can include mixes of fresh basil, nuts such as walnut or pine nut, olive oil, and the addition of miso paste and nutritional yeast to provide additional flavor enhancement to the dish.