The World of Pesto

By Ben Mims

Published on July 28, 2011

Genoa's famous basil pesto belongs to a genre of pounded herb sauces found all across the Mediterranean. Some are traditonal; others are creations of home cooks or chefs—all are the kind of multipurpose condiments you can use for marinades, sauces, dips, spreads, and more. Earthy walnut pesto is common in northern Italy as a pasta sauce and bruschetta topping. Parsley pesto with capers and anchovies is a piquant match for rich fish, like mackerel; it's similar in flavor to salsa verde, which is thickened with breadcrumbs and often served with grilled meats. Garlic scape pesto is mildly flavored and perfect for tossing with fresh egg pasta, while robust Sicilian pesto rosso, made with almonds and sun-dried tomatoes, is best with dried pasta. Enriched with sour cream, Germany's grune sosse features herbs like sorrel and watercress; it's wonderful with boiled vegetables. Cilantro adds a piney note to pepita pesto that pairs well with squash, and pistachio pesto is rather sweet, making it great with roasted vegetables. Peppery arugula pesto is delicious dolloped on ripe tomatoes or steak. A touch of ricotta in Calabrese pesto tempers the flavor of red peppers.

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