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Preparation of basil pesto in a mortar

The (also: the) pesto (from Italian pestare , “to crush”) is an uncooked pasty sauce that is usually served mixed with pasta in Italian cuisine ; Trofie or Trenette are used especially in the region of origin . The best known, pesto alla genovese , contains basil in its original form , mixed with pine nuts , garlic , olive oil , salt and cheese .


The traditional pesto comes from Liguria and was apparently first documented there in mid-1863 as follows:

“Prendet uno spicchio d'aglio, basilico (baxaicö) o in mancanza di questo maggiorana e prezzemolo, formaggio olandese e parmigiano grattugiati e mescolati insieme e dei pignoli e pestate il tutto in mortaio con poco burro finchè sia. Scioglietelo quindi con olio fine in abbondanza. Con questo battuto si condiscono le lasagne ei gnocchi (troffie), unendovi un po 'di acqua calda senza sale per renderlo più liquido. "

“You take a clove of garlic, basil (if not available: marjoram and parsley), grated Dutch cheese and parmesan and pine nuts and grind everything together with a little butter in a mortar until a paste is formed. This is then mixed with plenty of olive oil. This mixture is used to prepare lasagna and gnocchi (troffie), adding some hot, unsalted water to make the mixture more fluid. "

- Giovanni Battista Ratto : La Cuciniera Genovese

The method of making pesto probably goes back to the Roman Moretum , a herb-based cheese sauce. According to another theory, pesto is a medieval modification of Garum, which was also originally Roman . According to this, pesto is the first sauce made on the basis of oil.

Pesto became internationally known through an article published in the New York Times in 1944, which first mentioned the paste in the US media, and a recipe published in 1946 by Angelo Pelligrini in Sunset Magazine . Frank Sinatra later promoted the product. In Europe, the many Italian emigrant restaurants made Spaghetti al pesto famous.


Since pesto can be used as a generic term for all pasty products, there are a large number of so-called products based on modern and classic recipes, some of which are far from their origin.

  • According to the traditional basic recipe, pesto alla genovese ( Genoese style) consists of basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil as well as grated parmesan or pecorino . Apart from coarse salt, no spices are added. According to a YouTube video on the Italia Squisita website , the traditional preparation is as follows: The garlic is ground into a fine mass with coarse salt, to which the cooled kernels are added and also grated. This is followed by basil leaves, parmesan and finally olive oil.
  • Pesto alla siciliana (also: pesto rosso "red pesto") is the nationally known Sicilian variant, which also contains dried tomatoes , almonds instead of pine nuts and less basil.
  • Pesto alla calabrese is a particularly spicy variant from Calabria , in which a higher degree of spiciness is achieved with pepper and paprika .
  • In the French Provence the dish Pistou developed , a combination without the addition of pine nuts.

Outside of Italy, there is an occasional cold sauce called pesto without even containing any of the original ingredients or even traditionally prepared. Rocket or wild garlic instead of basil are then the basis, olives and mushrooms or coriander are used as an addition. There is also pumpkin seed pesto, which contains seed oil .

In many vegan variations, miso paste or yeast flakes are used to expand the taste that may be one-dimensional without cheese.

In Singapore , a variant of the national soup Laksa made using the pesto method is sold .


The pine nuts are first roasted in a pan without oil over medium heat until golden brown. The cooled kernels are chopped up together with the basil leaves and the garlic and then stirred into a creamy mass by adding oil and parmesan.

When making by hand, the mass should be made by pounding with a mortar to avoid excessive heat generation (such as the high speed of an electrical device), which has a detrimental effect on the aroma. It is important to proceed in a timely manner as oxidation can have adverse effects on odor, taste and appearance.


Industrially produced pesto is pasteurized or preserved with preservatives . It is sold fresh as a delicacy .

Pesto is a typical example of food design . For the majority of the products, expensive ingredients of the classic recipe are wholly or partly replaced by cheaper, similar-tasting raw materials and the renowned name is still used with sometimes misleading illustrations.

It is common to replace basil with parsley , pine nuts with cashew nuts , Parmesan or Pecorino with Grana Padano or other hard cheeses, and olive oil with sunflower oil or other vegetable oils. Potato flakes or beans as well as flavorings , acidulants and preservatives can also be added.

2009 selected by the Better Business Bureau foodwatch during the campaign fobbed called about 35,000 consumers, the pesto verde brand Bertolli Group Unilever at No. 3 for the negative price Golden puffs . The product stands for a particularly large discrepancy between the advertised and the actual content; with only 2% olive oil, an additional 40% unspecified oil per glass is processed. The pine nuts shown on the product label only accounted for 2.5% of the total, while the desired taste is achieved with cheaper cashew nuts. Although the company wrote on its website that it would "traditionally" dispense with additional preservatives in all products, the acidifier lactic acid was detected.

In 2013, Stiftung Warentest gave only three good overall ratings in a study of 30 products from the German retail trade.

One product contained a questionable amount of lactic acid bacteria, which acidify the taste , one was declared incorrectly in terms of quantities, and one was declared to be fundamentally inadequate. Once bamboo fibers were discovered, which are not allowed as food or additive. In the organic food designated glass as potentially carcinogenic substance Counting was anthraquinone detectable. In total 80% of the goods contained artificial flavorings.

See also


  • Eva Gaigg, Franz Schauer: Sauces: Chutney, Pesto & Co From avocado dip to onion sauce. Stocker, Graz / Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-7020-1284-7 .
  • Giorgio Locatelli: Made in Sicily. Fourth Estate, London 2011, ISBN 978-0-0074-3369-8 .
  • Joshua Clever: “Pesto!” ', Fona, Lenzburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-03780-442-1 (Swiss edition) & Walter Hädecke Verlag, Weil der Stadt, ISBN 978-3-7750-0593-7 .
  • Klaus Roth : Mediterranean Biochemistry. Pesto , Chemistry in Our Time, Volume 40, 2006, pp. 200-206

Web links

Commons : Pesto  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pesto  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Pesto Recipe  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. a b Pesto Genovese: an Agelesse Benchmark of Great Italy Cuisine , Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  2. Italian quote from ( Memento of the original from August 12, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Pesto has a long history of caring for basil. Retrieved on 08-04-14
  4. Italia Squisita: Pesto: la ricetta originale di Mauro Ricciardi e Giuliano Sperandio on YouTube , accessed on October 17, 2019.
  5. Dorothy Rankin: Very Pesto. Celestial Arts 2004, ISBN 978-1587612084
  6. Eric Tucker, John Westerdahl, Sascha Weiss: The Millennium Cookbook. Ten Speed ​​Press 1998, ISBN 978-0898158991
  7. Asian Pesto. Archived from the original on May 16, 2012 ; Retrieved July 23, 2013 .
  8. Pesto's official recipe ( Memento of the original from October 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Retrieved July 27, 2013. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Food imitations in the supermarket: More appearance than being ( Memento of the original from March 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Consumer Center Hamburg eV (PDF; 3.6 MB), July 2010 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. ↑ Groceries : What's Really Inside (photo gallery) , Spiegel Online, July 10, 2009.
  11. misnomer extra virgin - Bertolli Pesto Verdo Unilever , September 5th 2008, foodwatch
  12. What's inside counts , Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  13. Unwanted bacteria in green pesto . Germany radio. July 25, 2013. Archived from the original on September 13, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2013.