When people see a plate of pasta with a greenish-herby sauce, the first thing they will probably think is “Oh, that’s pesto” and you know what? They’re probably right. While there are other varieties of pesto, the most famous type is pesto alla Genovese which originated in Genoa, the capital of one of the Italian cities. Pesto is a very simple specialty sauce to make with five or six ingredients which include basil, pine nuts, garlic, some hard cheese (typically parmesan), salt, and olive oil. The taste? Well, there’s something about pesto that how it never coalesces into one flavor and the better the pesto is, the more you can identify the individual flavors of the components are.
- The word ‘pesto’ literally means to pound, so anything pounded in a mortar and pestle can technically be called a pesto.
- Red pesto or Pesto Rosso is similar to pesto alla Genovese but with the addition of tomatoes and almonds instead of pine nuts.
- Even though pine nuts are called for in the original pesto recipe, other types of nuts can be used.
- While traditionally used on pasta, pesto has become a fairly popular condiment and can be used on many different savory dishes.
Pesto Buying Guide
Due to its popularity, you can easily find bottled pesto on the shelves for that quick pesto fix. While bottled pesto doesn’t typically use preservatives, you still have to check the labels properly to get real pesto. The reason? Pesto isn’t a protected term and what may be labeled as pesto on supermarket shelves can be made with cheap ingredients.
Here are some things that we’ve run across when trying to buy commercially produced pesto. Remember, pesto is supposed to be made with olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese/pecorino cheese, garlic and salt.
- One commercial producer lists “Made with extra virgin olive oil” on the front label, but in the ingredients panel, extra virgin olive oil is at the bottom of the list. Listed as the main ingredients were rapeseed oil (canola oil), pomace olive oil (cheapest olive oil). So technically the label was telling the truth, but the amount of extra virgin olive oil could have been minuscule and the main oils were the cheapest available.
- Another commercial pesto labels its product as “classic pesto” but a closer look in the ingredients panel will show that instead of pine nuts, cashews were used. Instead of parmesan or pecorino cheese, Grana Padano is used.
- Some brands will have added glucose, potato flakes, carrot fibers, and other additives to improve the overall texture and taste of the pesto.
So yeah, that’s our quick buying guide for pesto. Just make sure that you’re getting value for your money since pesto commands a premium price. If you want to get authentic pesto, you can check out your local farmers’ markets and specialty stores where they sell locally made small-batch pesto.
Pesto Production & Farming in Texas
Pesto is a fairly popular condiment in Texas so it’s not difficult to find a local producer selling freshly made pesto. On top of that, since basil is pretty easy to grow in Texas conditions, plus the availability of high-quality extra virgin olive oil from local producers and olive groves. You can easily find fresh pesto in farmers’ markets and specialty grocers all around the state.
Aside from traditional pesto alla Genovese, you can also find Texas-style all around the state. Texas-style pesto is mainly made from cilantro instead of basil and features the addition of other ingredients. More on that below when we’ll share with you our very own Texas-style pesto recipe.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
As we mentioned earlier, preservatives aren’t commonly used in pesto but you really have to be careful with the contents of your pesto. Just make sure you’re getting the correct pesto ingredients and you should be good to go.
Pesto is usually bottled in glass bottles to protect the taste of the product from getting contaminated with the plastic taste that usually comes with storing condiments in plastic.
Pesto is best served as a sauce on pasta. As a condiment, pesto is also great as a dip for bread, chips, and other finger food. Pesto can also be added to dough to create freshly baked pesto bread which infuses the entire load with the taste of the pesto.
Once opened (or homemade) pesto can be stored inside the fridge for about a week before it starts to discolor and lose some of its taste.
Make your own Texas-style pesto:
We mentioned earlier that there was a Texas-style pesto and we’re here to deliver. This Texas-style pesto uses all locally produced ingredients and so from the ingredients alone, you’ll know its good.
Fresh cilantro leaves, 2 cups packed
Chopped Jalapeno Pepper, 1 tablespoon
Toasted Pecans, ¼ cup
Peeled Garlic, 2 cloves
Lime juice, ¼ cup
Grated Parmesan Cheese, ½ cup (yes, there are a number of cheesemakers in Texas that make excellent parmesan)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ½ cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Dump all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached. And you’re done! Use as you with traditional pesto.