What Is Pesto Sauce?

Pesto sauce, compared to other sauces is a fairly simple sauce to prepare. This is because there is no cooking required and the ingredients are minimal. However, there are certain rules that need to be followed when preparing pesto sauce. To see what real pesto sauce is here are some guidelines.

Pesto sauce originates from the northern part of Italy and is made from ingredients like basil, crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, cheese, and olive oil. Traditional preparation of the sauce involves using a mortar and a pestle to crush the ingredients to a cream. To experience what real pesto sauce becomes a very important step in making the sauce since crushing the ingredients gives the sauce its ultimate flavor advantage. Plus the name of the sauce itself comes from the Italian word “picture” which means to crush or mash.

What is pesto sauce? Ingredients In Pesto Sauce

To get a true sense of what is pesto sauce, here is a look at its main ingredients:

Basil: The highly fragrant leaves of the basil plant lend the sauce its very pungent nature. Basil leaves are also used as an herb on their own, mixed in pesto or be prepared as an herbal tea.

Garlic: Garlic’s aroma makes it a wonderful ingredient to add to the sauce.

Olive oil: There are many varieties of olive oil available and as long as a decent somewhat mild olive oil is used, the pesto will be fine. Since other ingredients like basil and garlic are highly flavorful on their own, it is best to use a mild variety of olive oil to bring the flavor burst of pesto down a notch.

Cheese: Traditionally choices like parmesan cheese and a cheese made from sheep’s milk known as pecorino Sardo are used in the sauce.

Pine nuts: Recipes often call for pine nuts to be used untoasted in the sauce.

  • How to make pesto sauce

To see what pesto sauce is all about, use two and a half cups of fresh basil leaves. Pair it with half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, a third cup of untoasted pine nuts, and two cloves of minced garlic. Use salt and pepper to taste and finish with a half cup of extra virgin olive oil.

To make the sauce, crush pine nuts and garlic in a mortar and pestle and add in the freshly washed and dried basil leaves. Sprinkle on some coarse salt and pulverize to a creamy consistency. The next step is to add in the cheeses and use some olive oil to give the mixture consistency by holding the ingredients together. This recipe yields one cup of pesto.

Pesto sauce can be stored in an airtight container and left in the refrigerator for up to one week the same can also be frozen for use in the future.

  • Pesto sauce nutrition   

To determine if pesto sauce is healthy here is a look at its nutritional profile. The recipe given above will yield 95 calories per one tbsp. Among these, there are 2 grams of protein, 9 grams of total fat with 2 grams being saturated fat, and 2 mg of cholesterol. The carb content per one tbsp. is one gram while the fiber content is also one gram. Based on how much salt is used, the sodium content will vary.

To determine what pesto sauce is nutritional, it is clear to see that it can be a healthy item to add to the menu since it includes healthy fats from olive oil. These fats are of the monounsaturated variety, making them supportive of heart health. Basil offers phytochemicals that are beneficial in neutralizing the effects of free radicals in the body while garlic has many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Pesto sauce nutrition a pan of basil, garlic and other herbs cooking making home made pesto.

The one consideration with pesto is its caloric density because of olive oil. But if calories are a concern then the sauce can be improvised by using less caloric oils.

  • Some Variations on the sauce

While basil is the staple in pesto, its strong flavor may be overpowering for some people. To see what pesto sauce is like with other ingredients, substitute one-third of the basil with any other herb of your choices like cilantro or mint and proceed. Likewise, parmesan can be paired with a different cheese or pine nuts substituted for other nuts for a delightful variation on a standard pesto recipe.

Pesto sauce nutrition some pesto sauce, pasta and basil leaves.

  • Pesto sauce uses

To determine what pesto sauce is best with, here are a few ideas:

  • The sauce is commonly used on pasta dishes making it an Italian staple.
  • Another way to use pesto is to dot it onto a pizza base to give your pizza an additional burst of flavor.
  • Pesto may also be used as a dip with breadsticks or try adding some pesto in a classic staple like mashed potatoes.   
  • The use of pesto can also be extended to use the sauce as a marinade or a dressing. Use it as a marinade to marinate fish, meat, or even vegetables before roasting.
  • Use the sauce on sandwiches, burgers, or wraps as a spread for added flavor. A smudge of pesto on bread can be paired with any topping of tomatoes, cream cheese, grilled chicken, vegetables, or even cheese. 
  • For another way to see what pesto sauce is good with, make an omelet more interesting by adding in a little bit of pesto to it. However, be spare in its use so as not to overpower the flavor of the dish.
  • Finish off a soup or stew with a dash of pesto added in. The flavor of vegetables in soups can work well with the green sauce for a well-balanced fusion of taste. Or use some in a chicken stew to liven up the dish.
  • Mix breadcrumbs with some pesto before coating fish with them and baking. This mixture can work equally well with chicken fillets or even mushrooms.
  • Bland food like couscous can do well when paired with extremely flavorful ones like pesto to be used in salads. 

Image Usage

Image used under creative commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Image One by SteakEat – https://www.flickr.com/photos/86058027@N08/8098128724/

Image Two by Chris Owen – https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriscruises/15691794452/

Image Three by Naotake Murayama – https://www.flickr.com/photos/naotakem/14637837529/

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