Most lovers of great food have a soft spot for pesto. With its spicy taste, this Italian sauce strikes that rare balance between boldness and tastiness, with delicious results.
Pesto is always a great option for your pasta. This sauce is never boring, but you can always rely on it to satisfy you and surprise your palate with its unique mix of flavors.
The color of great pesto sauce is light-to-intense green. It must be dense and homogeneous. When it comes to taste, the sauce must be tasty, just a little spicy, without any hint of mint whatsoever.
Thanks to its ancient origins and the interest it garners all around the world, pesto is more than a sauce. It’s the expression of a rich and storied gastronomical culture.
The origins of pesto date back to Ancient Rome, where sauces prepared with a mortar were all the rage. Romans enjoyed delicacies such as Garum, a mix of fish innards and aromatic herbs, and Moretum, the forebear of pesto. Moretum was made crushing together cheese, aromatic herbs, salt, oil, and vinegar, a recipe that closely resembles that of pesto.
Fun linguistic fact: The English word pestle (the rounded tool used to crush substances in a mortar) is related to pesto. Both come from the Latin word pistare, which means to pound.
From Genoa With Love
The current version of pesto is typical from Liguria, a region in Northwest Italy whose main city is Genoa. There’s an interesting backstory to the development of pesto: Venezia, an acerbic rival of Genoa, had a monopoly on spices during the middle ages. This forced the Ligurians to make do with what they had at hand: aromatic herbs and garlic. The rest, as they say, is history.
The French Cousin
Pesto has a French relative, pistou, a sauce typical from Marseille. The French tried to claim pesto as their creation, until in 1910, in a book titled Provencal Cuisine, a French chef called Jean Baptiste Reboul put the matter to rest by admitting that pesto was indeed a creation of the Genovese.
The World Pesto Championship
Believe it or not, there’s a World Pesto Championship. Organized by the Cultural Association of Italian Gourmets, it takes place every two years in Genova. 100 contestants follow the stringent regulations established by the Association and compete for the crown of world pesto champion. The Championship is open to people from all around the world, so pack your mortar and pestle and get ready to grind away!