What Is Pesto, Actually?

For the longest time, I thought I didn’t like pesto. I say “I thought” because by my early twenties I realized I simply hadn’t tried the stuff and was evidently just put off by the fact that so many people around me insisted that it was so good and I’d love it. (I was in a contrarian phase, we all had one!) Well, sooner or later, most likely to not look rude at a dinner party, I wised up and finally had a bit of pesto on some pasta and boy was my face red. I couldn’t believe what I had missed out on. I had to triple my pesto intake to make up for all the time I could have been spending with this delicious green wonder-paste. I now keep some in the fridge for whenever I need to smear it on something. Pesto, I apologize and repent for all my transgressions. I dedicate this article to you. 

What is pesto made of? What ingredients are in traditional pesto?

Traditional pesto is a sauce made with basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and Parmesan (or another hard Italian cheese, such as Pecorino). You can prepare it with a mortar and pestle (this is the traditional method) or using a blender/food processor.

Is pesto vegan?

Traditional pesto is not vegan; the recipe contains Parmesan cheese, which is not suitable for vegans. There are a number of vegan pesto alternatives available, though, so you can enjoy the taste without the non-vegan traditional ingredients! 

What to do with pesto?

Pesto is more versatile than you might think. You can use it as a pasta sauce, smear it on a sandwich, cook it with your choice of meat, use it as a pizza topping (I’ve had incredible chicken pesto pizza before), chip and veggie dip…the list goes on and on. I think as long as it stays away from the dessert cart, pesto can do no wrong! 

Does pesto go bad?

Unfortunately, yes. Since it’s made from fresh and perishable ingredients, it will only last for a short period of time in the fridge. But with proper refrigeration, pesto can last for up to two weeks. Just make sure you can distinguish “pesto” green from a “mold” green! 

Does pesto have nuts?

Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts as the base, so it’s not suitable for anyone with a tree nut allergy. Take an untraditional route and look up a nut-free pesto recipe! 

What does pesto taste like?

Pesto is nutty, garlicky, and a bit salty from the cheese. There are lots of herbal overtones from the basil. They all join together and, like an orchestra, create a symphony of flavor that could never be achieved separately. 

Folks, if you haven’t ever tried it, take my advice and take a ride on the pesto express as soon as possible. Don’t be like me and have egg on your face because you wanted to rebel against popular opinion…although, now that I think about it: Pesto on eggs? That’s gotta be delicious! I’m adding it to the list right now!

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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  • Just remember, Pine Nuts are not a tree nut, they are a seed. Most people with a tree nut allergy can have pine nuts. Large misconception. Make sure with your doctor you don’t have a pine nut allergy, which is relatively rare.