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All About Pesto Sauce – The Origin Story, Pesto Sauce Variations And How To Use



Whether it’s because of its tantalising flavour profile or the excellent balance of textures, Italian food has become a global favourite. Apart from the well-known dishes that the cuisine has to offer, there is also much more to explore in this cuisine. One such element of Italian cuisine is the wonderful sauces that it has to offer. Arabiatta, Pomodoro and Alfredo are the ones we most commonly encounter at our neighbourhood Italian restaurants – but there’s also the refreshing and flavourful Pesto sauce. If you have often seen this sauce mentioned on the menu of an Italian eatery but wondered what it’s all about, we have all the information you need.

History And Origins Of Pesto Sauce | Why Is It Called ‘Pesto’? 

Pesto sauce originated in the city of Genoa in the Liguria region of Italy. According to legends, pesto originated in the roman empire and was originally called ‘moretum’. Another story suggests that a friar was searching for herbs in the vicinity of his monastery and found basil and added some more ingredients to it to make what seems to be the first version of pesto sauce. The rest, as they say, is history!

In 2018, pesto was nominated in the United Nation’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The reason it is called ‘Pesto’ is that it comes from the Italian word ‘pestare’, which means to pound or crush.

(Also Read: This Veggie-Pesto Sandwich Is Our Current Favourite For Quick Meal)


Recipes like pesto eggs have been trending recently. Photo: iStock

What Is Basic Pesto Sauce Made Of?

The key ingredients of basic pesto sauce are basil leaves, cheese, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. The resulting sauce is chunky and creamy with an oil-based texture. It is not pungent but has the refreshing qualities of basil imbued in it. Traditionally, pesto sauce was prepared in a mortar and pestle. However, in the modern day, it can be made using a kitchen blender or mixer-grinder. Make sure to add all the ingredients and stir in the oil in small batches till you achieve the desired consistency.

Click here for the classic pesto sauce recipe.

(Also Read: 25 Recipe Ideas for Leftover Pesto)


Is Pesto Sauce Healthy? 

Although it seems that pesto sauce may be high in calories due to the addition of cheese and oil, it is far from the truth. In reality, pesto sauce has plenty of unsaturated and healthy fats that can make for an excellent addition to the diet. Further, the use of basil leaves increases the antioxidant content of the sauce. But if you are watching your weight, remember to consume pesto sauce in moderation; and always consult a qualified nutritionist before making any major changes to your diet.

Are There Different Kinds Of Pesto? | Variations And Versions Of Pesto Sauce 

Interestingly, pesto sauce can have plenty of variations and versions. Since the recipe requires using simple ingredients and a beginner-friendly process, pesto sauce can be made in countless different ways.

Here Are 4 Interesting Variations Of Classic Pesto Sauce:

1. Cashewnut Pesto

If you have run out of pine nuts, you can substitute them with cashew nuts and make an interesting cashew nut pesto recipe.

Click here for the full recipe for cashew pesto.

2. Tomato Pesto

Meanwhile, if you can’t resist the addition of tomatoes to your pesto sauce – this red pesto sauce is a must-try. It has the goodness of tomatoes and bell peppers that gives it a fiery and delicious taste. It is also known as ‘pesto rosso’, tomato pesto or simply red pesto sauce.

Click here for the full recipe for tomato pesto.

3. Carrot Green Pesto

Is sustainable eating your thing? We bet you would enjoy this carrot green pesto recipe. You will not only reduce the kitchen waste that you generate but also find an all-new avatar for your carrot greens.

Click here for the full recipe for carrot green pesto.


Pesto can be used to make delicious pasta. Photo Credit: iStock

4. Spinach Pesto

Who said that pesto has to be made only with basil leaves? When it comes to pesto, the world is your oyster in terms of creativity. This healthy pesto recipe enriches the usual sauce with the goodness of spinach. What a great way to combine health and taste, right?

Click here for the spinach pesto recipe. 

To explore even more pesto variations and recipes, click here.

How To Use Pesto Sauce: What Can Pesto Sauce Be Used For? 

Once your pesto sauce is ready, it’s time to get cooking and you can be as innovative as possible! There are thousands of recipes that use pesto sauce in their making. From pesto chicken to pesto-flavoured sandwiches, pesto salads and of course pasta as well – you can try all this and more.

Here are 5 delicious ways to add pesto to your meals.

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