What makes pesto great, according to an expert

What makes pesto great, according to an expert

Pesto, that wonderful, fragrant emerald green sauce of crushed basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano cheese, is one of Italy’s most famous contributions to the culinary world. and he the The distinct flavor of Liguria, the rugged coastal region in northwest Italy where I grew up. Combined with freshly cooked pasta, sprinkled over poached or baked fish, and topped with vegetable minestrone, pesto has the power to liven up any dish it encounters. If you’ve only tried pickled pesto, do yourself a favor and make a homemade batch. It’s easy to do if you follow a few basic steps. Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.


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What is pesto?

The word “pesto” comes from the Italian verb “pestare,” which means “to pound.” Simply put, pesto is a raw sauce or mixture made by grinding different ingredients together in a mortar and pestle. The vibrant green basil sauce that the word “pesto” conjures up for most of us is pesto alla Genovese. It gets its name from Genoa, the mountainous capital of Liguria where basil is grown in abundance, and where the sauce is believed to have originated sometime in the 17th century. Other ingredients in traditional pesto are garlic, pine nuts, salt, olive oil, and Parmigiano cheese, or a combination of Parmigiano and pecorino cheese.


There are many iterations of pesto, both traditional and non-traditional. Pesto alla Trapanese, named after the city of Trapani, Sicily, replaces the almonds with pine nuts and adds a handful of cherry tomatoes. There’s also arugula pesto, coriander pesto, parsley pesto, currant pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, spinach pesto, tarragon pesto, roasted tomato pesto and more.




To make traditional pesto, look for young basil whose leaves are no larger than your thumb. Ripe basil has a strong flavor and is too “woody” to be ground to a creamy consistency. To prepare it, grind the ingredients, first separately and then together, using a marble mortar and wooden pestle, until everything turns into a creamy sauce.


Nowadays, a food processor or high-speed blender usually replaces the mortar and pestle and makes quick work of the task, grinding and mashing everything together.



What is pesto made of?

Pesto contains just a few ingredients: fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, salt, olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


TRUE Pesto Genovese is made from Genovese basil from the hills of Genoa, harvested while the leaves are still young and very tender; Mild garlic (ideally from nearby Vesalico); pine (best from the area around Pisa); Coarse sea salt; Buttery, light olive oil from Liguria; and Parmigiano Reggiano, or a blend of Parmigiano and Pecorino Sardo, an aged sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia.


Those of us who love pesto but don’t live anywhere near Liguria can be less picky about the source of the ingredients we use.



What does pesto taste like?

If the Garden of Eden had a flavour, it would be pesto: sweet, floral, salty, rich, herbaceous with a slight tinge of bitter. Properly made pesto tastes fresh, lively, balanced, and not muddy. Each flavor component is recognizable – aromatic basil, pungent garlic, buttery olive oil, sweet pine nuts, tangy cheese – and yet nothing dominates. Basil is definitely the star, but its fragrance works in balance with the other ingredients.



What’s so special about pesto?

There is a magical quality to pesto. With hot pasta, its flavor becomes more vibrant as it reheats from residual heat. They are placed in a bowl of minestrone, which increases the flavor of the vegetables. It can add a twist to simple baked fish, and is heaven on a tomato and mozzarella sandwich. It is a versatile sauce that pairs well with many flavors and dishes.


Pesto is also perfect for creative cooking. While basil is the traditional herb for pesto, nothing says you can’t improvise. Why not add a handful of mint from that giant pile in your garden? Or use a bunch of parsley in your crisp drawer? No pine? Try low-butter bitter walnuts instead. I like to prepare “white” pesto with walnuts, a small amount of aromatic herbs – basil and marjoram – and a few drops of fresh ricotta cheese.



How do you eat pesto?

The most common way to enjoy pesto is pasta. In Liguria, traditional pasta shapes for pesto include calyx, a small corkscrew-shaped shape; trenite, similar to linguini; Gnocchi; Corzite, which is an engraved form of currency. Pesto for pasta is not intended for cooking, but rather stirred raw into just cooked pasta, along with a little cooking water.


Of course, there are countless other ways to use pesto. Spread a little over grilled eggplant, mushrooms or peppers. Use it as a dressing for chicken salad or potato salad, or as a filling for stuffed chicken breasts. Drizzle with a little oil and drizzle over a fresh caprese salad. It’s also a delicious flavor bomb for homemade pizza, focaccia, and bread.



Is pesto healthy?

According to Emily Lachtrup, MS, RD, “Peso contains leafy greens from basil and healthy fats from olive oil and pine nuts, making it a nutritious choice. Plus, it’s packed with flavor, so a small serving of it goes a long way.” Store-bought pesto tends to be high in sodium, so be sure to check the nutritional label when browsing your options. You can control sodium by making your own.


Although nutrition will vary from brand to brand, here are the nutritional details for a tablespoon of typical store-bought pesto, according to the USDA:


  • 93 calories
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0 grams of sugar
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 9 grams total fat
  • 2 grams of saturated fat
  • 3 mg of cholesterol
  • 158 mg sodium
  • 32 mg potassium





How long does pesto last in the refrigerator?

Although pesto can be stored in the refrigerator, its vibrant green color quickly turns dark and dark when exposed to air. To prevent discolouration, scoop the pesto into a small bowl and cover with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.



Can you freeze pesto?

For longer storage, you can freeze pesto; It will last in the refrigerator for up to six months. Although you can store it in a single container, it is best to divide it between small airtight containers or sealable bags, allowing you to retrieve only the amount you need. You can also freeze pesto in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove individual portions, transfer them to a resealable freezer bag or airtight container, and return them to the freezer. This gives you convenient small servings that are perfect for flavoring soups, sauces, sauces, and more.

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