Whenever Pesto is mentioned, most people will instantly remember the iconic pesto alla Genovese, a sauce made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. The Pesto originally came from Genoa, in Liguria, Italy. But what does Pesto taste like? This is entirely a different and not-so-straightforward question. Pesto is available in different flavors and variations.
This article will guide you on the different types of Pesto and what they taste like. If you plan on making some at home, you’ll learn what to expect in terms of taste, texture, and appearance. We’ll also explore the different uses of Pesto and how it is used in cooking!
What is Pesto?
Table of Contents
Pesto is a delicious sauce that can flavor pasta dishes and sandwiches or dip for bread. The word is derived from “pestare,” an Italian word meaning pound or crush. Pesto has been around since at least the 17th century when street vendors served it in Genoa who put this flavorful sauce on top of boiled meat and vegetable soup.
It is traditionally made with lots of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic, along with some salt and pepper to taste.Pesto is typically made thick from fresh basil, pine nuts or walnuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil in modern times.
It can be used as an ingredient in many dishes, including pasta salads, pizza, sandwiches, and soups. Pesto is also eaten on its own with breadsticks or crackers. There are about five main types of Pesto, which we shall cover in a short while.
What does pesto sauce taste like?
Most pesto sauces are made from a blend of basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil. These ingredients give it a pleasantly grassy and garlicky taste subject to the quality of olive oil used. Should you want to suppress the garlic taste in the sauce, just heat it or serve it along with other dishes like veggies, meat, pasta, or even your favorite pie- the pizza.
However, with so many variations of pesto sauce, it’s difficult to give a definitive answer as to what all pesto sauces taste like. For example, some pesto sauces include parsley, mint, or even cilantro to provide it with a slightly different flavor profile.
We shall look into the main types of Pesto and their respective taste profiles.
What is pesto sauce?
Pesto sauce, or simply Pesto, is made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese, and first press oil. Originating from Genoa in Italy, pesto sauce was traditionally served with the longer types of pasta, including spaghetti, bavette, bucatini, or fettuccine.
The taste of the original pesto sauce was more like individual constituents rather than a blend of all the ingredients. It was sharp and pungent from garlic, salty from Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese, and herbaceous peppery from the basil. The pine nuts added a slight sweetness and creaminess to the sauce.
Types of pesto sauce
There are many different types of pesto sauce, from the classic Pesto alla Genovese to arugula pesto to red Pesto.
1. Pesto Alla Genovese
This is the most popular and original pesto sauce. Whenever you are at a restaurant and order Pesto, you will get this type of pesto sauce. It is made with basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, salt, and olive oil. On some occasions, Pecorino Romano is substituted for the Parmigiano Reggiano. The result is a strikingly green sauce with a pronounced garlic and basil flavor.
2. Pesto Alla Trapanese
This Sicilian version of pesto sauce is made with almonds, garlic, basil, grated Pecorino cheese (goat milk), salt, and olive oil. It is traditionally used with spaghetti. What differentiates it from pesto alla Genovese is that it uses almonds instead of pine nuts.
3. Pesto agli agrumi
This is another Sicilian-born pesto, also known as citrus Pesto. It contains the same ingredients present in pesto alla Genovese. Instead of pine nuts, this recipe uses lemons, oranges, or even both. It uses pine nuts in place of almonds and also lemons or oranges. The lemon boosts the pesto flavor and pairs well with seafood and pasta.
4. Pesto Rosso
Pesto Rosso is a red pesto sauce made with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic, and basil. It gets its color from adding tomato paste to the traditional ingredients. This version is excellent for using on pizza or pasta dishes.
5. Pesto Modenese
Pesto Modenese originates from Emilia-Romagna in North Italy. The main fat in this Pesto is lardo, a cured salumi from pig fat. The fat gets pureed with parmigiana Reggiano, garlic. Rosemary and black pepper to give a deliciously creamy spread. This Pesto Modenese is served on bread or pizza.
What does basil pesto sauce taste like?
Traditional basil pesto, a thick, green sauce, tastes bright and herby from the basil and salty and rich from the cheeses and pine nuts. Some people say that Pesto tastes earthy or nutty, while others liken the taste to garlic. The Pesto also has hints of grassiness due to the olive oil with some garlicky traces.
No matter what you think Pesto tastes like, there is no doubt that it is delicious! This sauce can be used in various dishes, so it is a great way to add flavor to your meal. You can even use it as a dip or spread.
Basil pesto may at times taste bitter, which shouldn’t worry you. The extra virgin olive oil has polyphenols coated with fatty acids to prevent dispersing.
The polyphenols become bitter once the fatty acids get emulsified in the food processor.
What does Pesto look like?
Pesto is a staple food in Italy. It has been eaten for centuries and can be found in dishes ranging from pasta to soup! One ingredient that makes up this sauce is basil. Fresh basil pesto usually comes green or red, depending on whether it contains any chilli peppers or not. If the Pesto has a brownish color, then the Pesto is spoilt ad should be discarded.
What is Pesto made from?
Pesto is made from fresh or dried basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic cloves, grated cheese(any Italian cheese), and olive oil. Some recipes include a small amount of lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Other key ingredients can be added for different flavours, such as cilantro or parsley. The ingredients are mixed together and crushed in a pestle and mortar or blended in a blender/ food processor.
What is pesto sauce made of?
Pesto sauce is made of fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The ingredients are blended together to create a perfect sauce for pasta or as a spread on sandwiches.
How to make pesto sauce
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 peeled garlic cloves
- 2 cups basil leaves
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese(grated)
- Grind your pine nuts in a food processor or crush them in a pestle and mortar.
- Add in the garlic cloves and crush them till they smoothen.
- Add basil leaves and a pinch of salt and run the processor until all basil leaves break down.
- Empty the contents from the food processor and stir them in cheese and oil.
- Add in some more salt to taste.
Tips to making Perfect pesto
- How do you ensure you make the most delicious Pesto of all time? Follow these tips to get the best of Pesto.
- Always use fresh basil instead of dried. Fresh basil contains water and natural oil, which add to Pesto’s creaminess.
- Don’t be hard on the basil leaves, as over-chopping or over-processing can turn them brown due to oxidation.
- Toast the pine nuts for a rich roast flavor in your Pesto and preserve sweetness.
- Add a pinch of salt to help break down leaves after blending.
- Always store leftover Pesto covered in a layer of olive oil and stored in the fridge.
What is in pesto sauce?
Pesto sauce has a lot of variations, but it always contains basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts. Some recipes also call for Parmesan cheese, while others add sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. Pesto can also be made with different herbs, such as cilantro or parsley.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is red Pesto?
Red Pesto is made with roasted red peppers that give it a deep red color.
What is pesto aioli?
Pesto aioli is simply olive oil emulsified into mayonnaise, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Pesto aioli has a pure fiery garlic flavor to add extra flavor to your meals.
What is basil pesto used for?
Basil pesto can be used in dishes like:
You can use Pesto in place of pizza sauce on your pizza. You could also mix the pesto sauce with pizza sauce.
Spread pesto sauce on your sandwich bread.
Pesto boosts soup flavor, especially tomato soup.
Just add some oil and lemon juice into the Pesto, so it stretches further.
- Salad dressing
Pesto can be added to any creamy salad dressing.
Basil pesto pasta is a classic dish that uses pesto as the prominent flavor.
Pesto typically has so many flavors depending on the ingredients used. The most prevalent of all is a nutty and garlicky taste brought about by the pine nuts and garlic cloves. For a minty taste, you can add mint or even parsley if you love it.