Food glossary

A jar of pesto with spoon


A traditional basil-flavoured dark green Italian sauce from Genoa. Pesto is made by blending fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan or Pecorino cheese with olive oil to form a thick sauce. The sauce is uncooked and can be bought either fresh or long life in jars. A red version of pesto is available which has either sun-dried tomatoes or red peppers added, however the overwhelming flavour is still of basil with the tomato or pepper being added for colour and just a hint of flavour.

Pesto can be made at home but a large amount of fresh basil leaves (at least 50g) are needed to produce a small amount of pesto. Variations on the basic recipe include using rocket or watercress instead of basil and hazelnuts or pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts. Both red and green pesto are available in jars or as a fresh stir-in sauce.

Uses: For a quick and easy meal, stir some pesto into cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Make a crispy topping for fish by mixing pesto with fresh white breadcrumbs and spreading over before baking. It can also be used as a marinade - spread over chicken breasts, leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes and then grill or barbecue. Stir a little pesto into mayonnaise and spread on bread instead of butter in sandwiches.

To store: Fresh pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks before opening, once opened it should be used within 3-4 days. Pesto in a jar should be stored in a dry, cool cupboard away from direct sunlight, once opened store in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.