What Does Pesto Taste Like?


Quick Answer: What Does Pesto Taste Like? 

Pesto has a rich and earthy flavor profile owing to the combination of Parmesan cheese, pine nut, and Olive oil, traditionally in a mortar and pestle. The type of Pesto varies as the core ingredient changes but the basic act of “crushing” the ingredients to release the aroma and hidden flavor remains common to all. 

This is a detailed guide on what Pesto really tastes like!

Without further ado, let us kick off this culinary journey!

What is Pesto?

Pesto is an Italian sauce with a vibrant green color that originated in Genoa.

The past tense of the Genoese verb “pestare,” which means “to crush,”.

Pesto gets its name from the fact that it is often created by pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle.

What Does Pesto Taste Like?

Pesto has a garlicky, herbaceous flavor with a strong hint of olive oil. The sauce’s richness comes from cheese and olive oil. Both contribute to the richness and earthiness of the dish. No ingredient in an excellent Pesto should be overpowering or underpowering; each component should be discernible.

Pesto is a thick, gritty, brilliant green sauce with a herby basil flavor and a salty, rich flavor from the cheeses and pine nuts.

The addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo cheeses to the sauce gives it a deeper flavor.

For some folks, the garlic’s bite may be too much then the sauce can be heated and served over pasta, meats, or vegetables to complete the dish.

What are the Different Types of Pesto?

There can be numerous kinds of Pesto based on the core ingredients used to make it. Since the word “Pesto” roughly translates to crushing or smashing, any paste or condiment made by such a procedure can be named as a type of Pesto.

Generally speaking, there can be three specific types of classic Italian Pesto. 

  • Pesto Modenese (made with salami, Parmesan, garlic, rosemary, or thyme),
  • Pesto Alla Trapanese (made with basil, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan) and
  • Pesto Rosso (made with sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, red pepper flakes, rosemary, olive oil, and garlic).

What Can You Eat Pesto With?

Pasta is the most frequent Pesto preparation. This herbaceous Italian sauce may, however, be used in a variety of ways.

Pesto sauce is a terrific taste enhancer for a variety of recipes since it is peppery, buttery, and salty all at once. It may be used as a spread on toast or as a topping for eggs at breakfast.

You take your pick on how to innovatively use Pesto!

Here is a fun video to help you incorporate Pesto into almost everything! 

How to Make Pesto?

While there are countless Pesto recipes and variants, basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, olive oil, and salt are the classic ingredients in this green sauce.

Pesto is traditionally made by pressing all ingredients together in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.

The first items to go into the mortar are garlic and pine nuts. Basil leaves and salt are added after the basil has been crushed to a paste.

Here is an authentic Italian Pesto recipe, just for you.

What does Red Pesto Taste like? 

When compared to green Pesto, red Pesto is spicier and pepperier. The sun-dried tomatoes and roast peppers used in most recipes give it a stronger taste.

Red Pesto is made by combing sun-dried tomatoes, charred red pepper, fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt.

Why does Pesto taste like grass? 

The worst-case scenario is that your fresh Pesto tastes like a harsh green mess on your tongue.

Extra virgin olive oil is the major cause of Pesto bitterness. Polyphenols are found in the oil (bitter-tasting molecules).

When all of the Pesto components are thoroughly combined, the polyphenols are squeezed out, causing the mixture to become bitter.

When you have a blunder like this, salt might help you out.

Is Pesto Sweet?

Garlic and herbs are the major components of Pesto. Use basil or parsley for the herbs, or combine the two. When basil is used fresh in the Pesto sauce, it gives the Pesto a sweeter and refreshing flavor.

What Tastes Similar to Pesto?

The best Pesto substitutes can be herb oils like Basil oil, Parsley oil, or any other common (non-bitter) herb.

There can be dairy-free (Sicilian nut Pesto) and nut-free (pinenuts replaced by extra Parmesan or sunflower seeds) alternatives too!

Can You Eat Pesto by Itself?

Fresh homemade Pesto sauce is perfectly fine to be eaten as is but such may not be the case with the store-bought one.

Pesto stored in jars may have additives that aren’t safe to be consumed without proper cooking. It is thus, advisable to cook store-bought Pesto sauce before consumption.

Bottom Line

I hope this concise taste guide helped you gauge the taste of Pesto sauce.

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About Nancy Miller

Nancy is a foodie by heart and loves experimenting with food. She likes to experiment not only as part of academics but also as a cook at home, sometimes she does not get the desired outcome of these experiments though! But that doesn't stop her from trying more out-of-the-box things. When Nancy entered college, it became clear to her that food was going to be an important part of her life.