Pesto (Italian: [ˈpesto]) is a paste that traditionally consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, and hard cheese such as Parmesan or pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep's milk), all blended with olive oil.[1] It originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy.[2]

Pesto
Basil pesto
Alternative namesPesto alla genovese
CourseSauce
Place of originItaly
Region or stateGenoa
Main ingredientsBasil, garlic, olive oil, grated hard cheese, pine nuts

Etymology edit

Pesto alla genovese (in English: Genoese pesto); (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpesto alla dʒenoˈveːse, -eːze]) refers to the original dish.

The name pesto is the past participle of the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means "to pound", "to crush", in reference to the original method of preparation. According to tradition, the ingredients are "crushed" or ground in a marble mortar through a circular motion of a wooden pestle. This same Latin root, through Old French, also gave rise to the English noun pestle.[3] Incidentally, the Latin root seems to be similar to the Sanskrit adjective pishta (Sanskrit: पिष्ट, IAST: piṣṭa), which means "ground", "pounded", "crushed".[4] Strictly speaking, pesto is a generic term for anything made by pounding; that is why the word is used for several pestos in Italy. Nonetheless, pesto alla genovese ("Genoese pesto") remains the most popular pesto in Italy and the rest of the world.[5]

History edit

 
Trenette with pesto

Pesto is thought to have had two predecessors in ancient times, going back as far as the Roman age. The ancient Romans used to eat a similar paste called moretum, which was made by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, olive oil, and vinegar (and sometimes pine nuts) together.[2][6] The use of this paste in the Roman cuisine is mentioned in the Appendix Vergiliana, an ancient collection of poems in which the author details the preparation of moretum.[6] During the Middle Ages, a popular sauce in the Genoan cuisine was agliata, which was a mash of garlic and walnuts, as garlic was a staple in the nutrition of Ligurians, especially for the seafarers.[2]

The introduction of basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, occurred in more recent times and is first documented only from the 1850s century. Emanuele Rossi published La Vera Cucineria Genovese in 1852 and gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto published La Cuciniera Genovese in 1863:[2]

"Take a clove of garlic, basil or, when that is lacking, marjoram and parsley, grated Dutch and Parmigiano cheese and mix them with pine nuts and crush it all together in a mortar with a little butter until reduced to a paste. Then dissolve it with good and abundant oil. Lasagne and Trofie are dressed with this mash, made more liquid by adding a little hot water without salt."[7]

Although likely originating from and being domesticated in India,[8] basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy, and Provence, France. It was abundant in this part of Italy, though only when in season, which is why marjoram and parsley are suggested as alternatives when basil is lacking.[2] Ratto mentions Dutch cheese (formaggio olandese) instead of pecorino sardo since Northern European cheeses were common in Genoa at the time, thanks to the centuries-long commercial trades of the maritime republic.[2]

This recipe for pesto alla genovese was often revised in the following years (a noted revision by Emanuele Rossi occurred in 1865, only a couple of years after Ratto's Cuciniera),[9] and it shortly became a staple in the Ligurian culinary tradition, with each family often featuring its own pesto recipe (with slight differences to the traditional ingredients).[10] This is the main reason why pesto recipes often differ from each other.

Pesto recipes began circulating in American newspapers as early as the late 1920s, per a syndicated recipe by George Rector that was copyrighted in 1928.[11] In 1944, The New York Times mentioned an imported canned pesto paste. In 1946, Sunset magazine published a pesto recipe by Angelo Pellegrini. Pesto became popular in North America in the 1980s and 1990s.[12]

Ingredients and preparation edit

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,[1] and 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 for up to a week and can be frozen for later use.[13]

Accompaniments edit

 
Pappardelle with pesto alla genovese at a restaurant in Florence
 
Fusili with pesto of pistachio di Bronte

Pesto is commonly used on pasta, traditionally with mandilli de sæa ("silk handkerchiefs" in the Genoese dialect),[14] trofie or trenette. Potatoes and string beans are also traditionally added to the dish, boiled in the same pot in which the pasta has been cooked.[citation needed] Pasta mixed with pesto has become a well-known dish in many countries today, with countless recipes available for "pasta with pesto".

It is used in Genovese minestrone. Outside of Italy, pesto is sometimes served with sliced beef, tomatoes, and sliced boiled potatoes.

Variations edit

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.[15]

The original 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.[13] A proposal is under preparation by the Palatifini Association to have pesto alla genovese included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.[16] There is a biennial international Genovese Pesto al Mortaio competition in which 100 finalists use traditional mortars and pestles as well as the above ingredients which 30 local and international judges then assess.

 
Freshly baked pesto bread

In France, a slightly different version of this sauce exists in Provence, where it is known as pistou (from pistar, "to pound" in Occitan).[17] In contrast to pesto alla genovese, pistou is generally made with olive oil, basil, and garlic only. It is traditionnally made without cheese but some modern versions include it. Almonds or breadcrumbs can be used to give the final consistency.[18] Pistou is used in the typical soupe au pistou, a hearty vegetable soup with pistou flavour.[19]

Outside of Italy, sometimes, almond, Brazil, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut, or even peanuts are used instead of pine nuts, and sometimes coriander, dill, kale, mint, parsley, rocket, spinach, or wild garlic leaves are mixed in with the basil leaves.[19] It has been pointed out that any combination of flavourful leaves, oily nuts, hard cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice can produce a pesto-like condiment.[20]

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 and 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.[21]

Outside Italy, the household name pesto has been used for all sorts of cold sauces or dips, mostly without any of the original ingredients: coriander, dill, kale, mint, parsley, rocket, spinach, or wild garlic (instead of or in addition to basil), artichokes, black olives, green olives, lemon peel, lime peel, or mushrooms.[22] In more northern countries, ramson leaves are sometimes used instead of basil.[23] 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.[citation needed]

Vegan pesto variations can include mixes of fresh basil, pine nuts or other nuts, olive oil, miso paste, and nutritional yeast to provide additional flavour enhancement to the dish.[24]

Non-traditional variants of pesto edit

For reasons of expense or availability, almond, Brazil nut, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut, or even peanuts are sometimes substituted for the traditional pine nuts. Also, while the nuts are traditionally raw, some recipes call for prior toasting or roasting. While not traditional, other nuts may be used due to the taste disturbances that some people may experience after consuming pine nuts (see pine mouth). Many online recipes in English for pesto will also list black pepper or white pepper among the ingredients,[25] which are not present in the traditional Genoese recipe.[2] For reasons of expense, in pestos sold in supermarkets, the extra virgin olive oil is often replaced with cheaper oils such as corn oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil, soya oil, sunflower oil, or other vegetable oils. Some manufacturers of pesto for European supermarkets also use filling material like potato flakes or potato starch, which softens the traditionally strong flavour. Certain pesto recipes abroad replace basil or pine nuts with other herbs and greens, such as:

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Campionato Mondiale Pesto al Mortaio. "Pesto's official recipe". Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Scarpato, Rosario. "Pesto Genovese: an Ageless Benchmark of Great Italian Cuisine". Archived from the original on 15 July 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  3. ^ "pesto". Online Etymological Dictionary. Archived from the original on 1 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  4. ^ Monier Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Clarenden Press, Oxford. p. 576.
  5. ^ Pronzati, Virgilio (2012). "Si fa presto a dire pesto" [It is one thing to say Pesto]. Come uno specialista di enogastronomia racconta la storia popolare Genovese [How a food and wine specialist relates the Genoese folk history] (PDF) (in Italian). Genoa. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2016.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ a b "Moretum – Appendix Vergiliana". Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  7. ^ Ratto, Giovanni Battista (1863). La Cuciniera Genovese. Genoa: Fratelli Pagano. Archived from the original on 10 October 2020. Retrieved 4 October 2020.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York, New York: Scribner. ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1. LCCN 2004058999. OCLC 56590708.
  9. ^ Rossi, Emanuele (1865). La vera cuciniera Genovese facile ed economica. Genoa.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ "Zelf Pesto Maken". Archived from the original on 3 February 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  11. ^ Rector, George (13 June 1929). "Rector's Recipes". The Modesto Bee. Archived from the original on 2 March 2022. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  12. ^ Traverso, Amy (April 2008). "Pesto's Premiere". Sunset. p. 116. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  13. ^ a b "Consorzio del pesto Genovese recipe". mangiareinliguria.it. Archived from the original on 1 May 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  14. ^ "Mangiare in Liguria". 11 April 2020. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  15. ^ Rankin, Dottie (2004). Very Pesto. Celestial Arts. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-58761-208-4.
  16. ^ "La Republica, 18 March 2018". 18 March 2018. Archived from the original on 3 February 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  17. ^ "PISTOU : Etymologie de PISTOU". www.cnrtl.fr. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  18. ^ Tretz.), Jean François de Gaufridi (baron de (1694). Histoire de Provence [ed. by the abbé de Gaufridi].
  19. ^ a b Brennan, Georgeanna (8 March 2007). A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France. Chronicle Books. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-8118-5213-5.
  20. ^ Dale Berning Sawa (1 February 2016). "10 best foods to make from scratch and save money". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  21. ^ Locatelli, Giorgio (2011). Made in Sicily. HarperCollins. n.p. ISBN 978-0-00-745722-9.
  22. ^ "Recipes: Mushroom Pesto Crostini". Food Network. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  23. ^ "Gewürzmix für Bärlauch Pesto" [Spice blend for ramsons pesto]. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  24. ^ Tucker, Eric; Westerdahl, John & Weiss, Sascha. Millennium Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine.
  25. ^ "Basil Pesto". Food Network. Archived from the original on 25 April 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  26. ^ "Coconut Pesto". Recipes from a Pantry. 12 October 2017. Archived from the original on 16 January 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Coconut Basil Pesto". New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Avocado Pesto". The Spruce Eats. Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Avocado Pesto Sauce with Parsley". Everyday Healthy Recipes. 21 April 2020. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  30. ^ "Avocado Pesto Pasta". Kirbie Cravings. 20 March 2018. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Carrot and Cumin Pesto". Halversen. Archived from the original on 5 May 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  32. ^ "Coriander and Cumin Pesto". New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  33. ^ "Noodles with Turmeric Pesto". Paleohacks. 16 April 2017. Archived from the original on 1 October 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  34. ^ "Vegan Cashew Pesto with Turmeric". Fabs Good Food. Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  35. ^ "Ginger Garlic Pesto". Allrecipes. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  36. ^ "Korean Perilla Pesto Recipe on Food52". Food52. Archived from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2021.

External links edit

  •   Media related to Pesto at Wikimedia Commons