Take A Walk Down The Great Italian Pesto Trail
It’s the simplest recipes that make for the tastiest meals. Just like the Italian pesto! In its most classic form, pesto is simply an unforgettable blend of ingredients — basil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and sometimes even Pecorino cheese.
This bright green pesto has steadily gained popularity across the globe for its ability to lift up any dish with its earthy flavours. Today, most kitchens around the world have a jar of pesto sitting on a shelf. Afterall, its versatility appeals to most home-cooked recipes. Pesto does work wonders when added to soups, spread on sandwiches or tossed with some pasta, doesn’t it?
While Italy is the birthplace of pesto, since the word means “to pound”, the sauce isn’t restricted to its classic green avatar. As you travel across different regions like Genova, Sicily and Emilia-Romagna, you’ll see each provenance has its own spin on pesto. Till you can fly to Italy again, let’s take you on a pesto trail of Italy.
PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
Pesto, as we know it, originated in Genoa and the basil from here boasts of a D.O.P (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) classification. You could say that in Genoa, pesto is quite the big cheese (pun unintended)!
The classic recipe combines basil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and Pecorino cheese. But as per the Consorzio del Pesto Genovese, you can only make a traditional Pesto Alla Genovese using quality Italian ingredients like Genovese basil, the Ligurian Riviera’s extra-virgin olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses that have a D.O.P certificate.
Genoa also hosts the Pesto World Championship every two years, where professional cooks and budding chefs compete to prepare authentic pesto sauces.
Chef Aabhas Mehrotra too has come up with his own version of pesto, using sunflower seeds that offer a nuttier version. Order a jar of Sorrentina’s Basil Seed Pesto today and try it out.
Tastes Best With: Pasta, Soups, Salads, Meat, Bread, Crackers
PESTO ALLA TRAPANESE
The Sicilian pesto is definitely not green! This version takes the form of a creamy, lighter sauce that clings wonderfully to silky ribbons of pasta. What makes this pesto different from the classic green Genovese version is the use of almonds instead of pine nuts. Sicilians also pound in the small Pachino tomato, native to the region. It’s reminiscent of a cherry tomato and has a sweet taste. The final result? A creamier, tart pesto that’s nuttier thanks to the almonds and has a beautiful flavour owing to the marriage between fresh basil and tomatoes.
Tastes Best With: Pasta, Grilled Chicken, Fish, Bread, Crackers
PESTO AGLI AGRUMI
Another Sicilian-style pesto is the Pesto Agli Agrumi— a fresh, zesty creation that uses the same ingredients as the Genovese, with pine nuts instead of almonds, with an additional mix of lemons, oranges or both. Some Italians also like to add capers to this kind of pesto. If you enjoy citrus-flavoured dishes, chances are you’re going to like the Pesto Agli Agrumi. We suggest putting this together for a nice summer brunch or an outdoor picnic.
Tastes Best With: Pasta, Salads, Seafood
The pesto rosso, or ‘red pesto’, is a delicious, versatile pesto that’s arguably the easiest to prepare. It’s another Sicilian variation and most commonly made using sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, garlic, rosemary and olive oil. If its vibrant red hue doesn’t grab your attention, its distinctive tangy flavours sure will. If you’re hard-pressed for time or can’t find the right ingredients to whip up some Pesto Rosso, we’ve got you covered. Just pick up a jar of Sorrentina’s Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto for a pasta delizioso.
Tastes Best With: Pasta, Meat, Fish, Bread, Crackers
This rich pesto hails from Modena, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Unlike the bright green or deep red pesto, Pesto Modenese is made with garlic, lardo (a type of cured salami made from pig fat), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, rosemary and black pepper. This white pesto is usually eaten with warm bread or used as a filling for the tigelle or the Crescentina Modenese — a flatbread that’s quite popular in Emilia-Romagna. It works as an excellent appetizer for all kinds of parties.
Tastes Best With: Tigelle, Borlenghi, Piadina, Crackers
The humble pesto’s multiple avatars across Italy keep changing as per every famiglia’s recipe too. But the variations mean that you can eat pesto at as many as six different places in Italy and have them all taste wonderfully different.
If reading this has led to a major pesto craving, you’ve got to order our pesto, specially crafted by Chef Aabhas Mehrotra. It’s made in small batches, so it’s very fresh and it’s made with ingredients sourced all the way from Italia.
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