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Pesto is a classic Italian herb sauce and a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. The name pesto derives from the Italian word pestare, meaning "to crush," as all the ingredients are finely crushed to create a creamy paste. Pesto is traditionally served with pasta, but can also be used in soups, salads, as a spread or in desserts. Homemade pesto made from basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and salt tastes much better than store-bought pesto and will keep in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
Pesto can be used not only with pasta, but also with many other dishes. For example, it can be prepared as a side dish with meat or as a spread. Fish dishes can also be enhanced with pesto, for example pesto fish with zucchini or fried calamari with arugula and basil pesto. Soups can also be enhanced with pesto, for example, Ligurian fish stew with basil pesto. Vegetarians can also enjoy pesto as a dressing for pasta salads or as a condiment for vegetarian quiches.
Basil pesto is the most popular pesto, but there are many other varieties of pesto, such as red tomato pesto, arugula pesto, spinach pesto, walnut pesto, peanut pesto and many more. The best homemade pesto is made from fresh basil leaves, good cheese and mild olive oil. When making pesto, it is important to use only mild olive oil with little bitterness and to stir the ingredients only briefly. If the pesto is stirred too long, it can become bitter.
Pesto is most commonly used for pasta dishes, and it's easy to make a delicious and healthy meal in just 15 minutes by mixing cooked pasta with pesto. Other ingredients such as cooking water or additional vegetables can be added to the pasta-pesto mixture to create a more complex dish.
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