Pesto in Italian means to crush, to make into a paste. A sauce with a base of basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, pinecome and Pecorino Sardo cheese.

According to the tradition in Pesto Genovese, the ingredients are «crushed» or ground inside a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. More specifically, pesto is a general term for anything that is made with a crushing technic, and that is why the word is used for many different pestos in Italy.

Pesto is often used on traditional pasta, mandilli de saea (“silk scarves” in the Genovese dialect) and trofie. Potatoes and peas are added to the dish according to tradition.

It is sometimes used in minestrone.


It is thought that pesto has two predecessors in the ancient times, since the roman era. The ancient romans indeed used to eat a similar paste, called moretum, which was made by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, olive oil and vinegar together. During the Middle Ages, a famous sauce in the kitchen of Genova was the agliata, a paste made of garlic and walnuts. Garlic was a basin ingredient in the dietary habits of the Ligures, especially the seamen.

The introductin of basil, a basic ingredients of the modern version of pesto, occured quite recently and it is recorded for the first time during the 19th century, when the gastronome Giovanni Batista Ratto published a book called the cuisine of Genova in 1863.

Basil has its origins most propably in India, it became though a basic ingredient in the prefecture of Liguria, in Italy and in Provence, in France: it existed in large amounts during its season of bloom in this part of Italy, that’s why marjoram and parsley are often recommended as alternative solutions when there is no basil.

The recipe for pesto Genovese was often renewed during the following years (the famous revisit by Emanuele Rossi occured only 2 years after the publication of Ratto’s book), and soon enough it became the base of the Ligurian culinary tradition, since every family usually had its own pesto recipe. This is the main reason why pesto sauce recipes ofter present differences one from another.


In the French Provence, this dish became the well-know Pistou, a combination of basil, parsley, ground garlic and ground cheese (optionally): pinecones are not included in this recipe. The sauce did not involve any basil either in the beginning. Instead of basil, cheese and olive oil where the basic ingredients.

The Sicilian pesto, sometimes also called red pesto, is a sauce from Sicily similar to the Genovese pesto, but with the addition of tomato, almonds instead of pinecones, and much less basil. The calabrian pesto if a sauce from Calabria, made of roasted peppers, black pepper and more. These ingredients give this pesto a spicy taste.

In Singapore, the version called laksa pesto is very popular. The recipe has the taste of the traditional soup laksa with curry and noodles, but it is made according to the method of a pesto.

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Source: Πέστο – Βικιπαίδεια