Pesto is a savory green Italian sauce made from a combination of basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese.The ingredients are combined — in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor — with olive oil, and blended until a paste forms. The word pesto is actually derived from the Italian pestare, which means to pound or to crush — likely because pesto was traditionally made using a mortar and pestle. Pesto made according to this recipe is commonly used as a sauce for hot or cold pasta dishes or as a spread for sandwiches.
Pesto is a generic term and many variations exist. Some of the most common include the use of almonds instead of pine nuts or the addition of mint. And in Provence, pesto is made using only olive oil, garlic, and basil, and is called pistou.
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Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.