The History of Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy, and from the time the Italians invented pesto it has always been prepared with crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and including Fiore Sardo, a cheese made from sheep’s milk.

It is possible the mineral-rich seaside soil and temperate climate of Liguria is why pesto sauce has  become a beloved sauce in northeren Italy, as they have the perfect conditions for growing basil.

The Meaning of Pesto

Different Materials to make Mortars and Pestles

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The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound, or to crush. Pesto was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle.

The ingredients were pounded or crushed with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar.

The book “Pesto Genovese: an Ageless Benchmark of Great Italian Cuisine,” writes that the ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, prepared by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together.

Because the term pesto is a generic word for anything that is made by pounding or crushing, that leaves the original pesto sauce recipe open to flexible and differing ways to prepare the sauce.

Flexible Ways to Prepare Pesto Sauce

In accent Provence, France the pesto was prepared without using pine nuts, as no pine trees grow there to provide the nuts. Sometimes almonds are used instead of pine nuts, and mint leaves are mixed in with the basil leaves. Some have even used spinach or cilantro in place of basil.

grated Asiago cheese

Grated Asiago Cheese

The interchangeable use of the nuts and greens just depends on your taste. In our kitchen at Splendid Recipes and More, we have used pecans in place of pine nuts, and almost always use Asiago cheese in place of the traditional Parmesan cheese.

Here’s the recipe for the traditional pesto sauce, though as we said, at Splendid Recipes and More, we use Asiago cheese. Here is what you will need.

Pesto Sauce - over head shot2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, no stems

¼ cup pine nuts

2 large garlic cloves

½ cup grated Romano/Parmesan or Asiago cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, except oil, and pulse. Start to add oil slowly, pulsing until ingredients form a smooth paste.

Note: If you do not use right away, or there are left overs, store in a jar with a layer of olive oil on top to prevent discoloration, and top jar with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator. Will store for 3 to 5 days.

Pesto is no doubt one of the worlds most loved sauces, next to the mayonnaise and the Mexican traditional salsa.

What Others Are Reading:

Ricotta Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers with Cilantro Pesto Sauce

Ricatto Stuffed Sweet Mini Peppers

Sweet peppers are packed full of vitamins including A, C and K, all which help prevent cell damage, cancer and age related diseases.

Vitamin C is a antioxidant that prevents inflammation in the respiratory system, which could help in decreasing chances of asthma and bronchitis.

Red peppers have more nutrients than green peppers, such as lycopene that helps to protect the heart from disease and fights off cancer.

The chemical compounds found in cilantro help bind toxic metals and loosen them from bodily tissue. May be able to help prevent cardiovascular damage and improve sleep.

Garlic is great to prevent some cancers when eaten regularly and extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart.

Pecans are a good source of the B-complex vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. These vitamins work together as co-factors for the enzyme metabolism inside the human body.

Such a simple snack or appetizer packed full of nutrients to keep you healthy.

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