what does pesto taste like?
Pesto is a sauce traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic. It is commonly used as a dip with bread or pasta and can be served warm or cold. Pesto has a distinctive green color derived from the addition of varying amounts of fresh parsley and/or spinach to the basic recipe. The taste also varies depending on what type of basil is used: some people prefer pesto made with Genovese basil (also known as “borlotti”) because they find it to be sweeter than the common variety often found in other pestos; others like sweet Italian Pesto which contains sugar instead of salt. In addition to its domestic usage, pesto is also an ingredient in other dishes around the world, including pasta dishes and pizza.
The name of the sauce is a reference to the Italian town of Pescia or Pescia in Abruzzo, where it was created. The town sends visitors a certificate which lists them among those who have eaten there. There are numerous variations on this story; many sources claim that it was invented by a neighborhood cafe-owner named Mario Batali in the late 1950’s, although others say it dates back to several hundred years earlier than that. In any event, he certainly popularized it after popularizing his restaurants and cafes himself.
The following recipe is based on Mario Batali’s recipe, which was published in his book A Blessing of Bread: The Making of a Cook, which came out in 1992. He generously gave permission to reprint it here.
A Note on Basil:
To make your pesto taste even more like Genovese pesto, add half as much basil as you add Italian flat-leaf parsley. If using standard Italian-style basil, use about one-third as much as you would use for parsley. To make your pesto sweeter and milder (or sweeter and spicier), use ½ cup extra virgin olive oil instead of just 1 cup.