Also known as: Pestu, pistou
Likes: Fresh herbs, Italian food
Dislikes: Wilted Basil
Hobbies: Brightening up your favorite mortar and pestle, lending bright and powerful flavor to a variety of dishes
Find him: Topping piping hot pizzas and soft sandwiches, along with grilled chicken and garden-fresh veggies
He’s bright and flavorful, made from fresh Mediterranean ingredients in the tradition of the Liguria region of Italy. Chances are you’ve already met him in recent years, as his popularity continues to grow on restaurant menus and in home kitchens alike. He’s Pesto, and he’s ready to flavor your next meal.
Pesto has a long history in the Mediterranean region, where, some say, the earliest version of his pestle and mortar-mashed goodness was enjoyed by the Ancient Romans. It was in this area, known for the city of Genoa, where he has gradually grown into the condiment he is today. Traditionally, he is a blend of fresh local basil, garlic, Italian pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese and goat cheese, but as he has travelled throughout Italy and into Europe, he has enjoyed many new variations, including arugula or spinach instead of basil, almonds or walnuts instead of pine nuts, and added ingredients like lemon, bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes and olives.
Pesto is a whole lot of flavor and nutrition packed into a small sauce which can make a good addition to your healthy diet on sandwiches, pizzas and even in soups. His basil delivers a dose of vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes, his pine nuts and olive oil may help lower your risk of disease with plenty of unsaturated fat, and his cheese is a tasty way to get some vitamin D for strong bones. He understands that he is high in fat and calories, but he’s the first to remind you that in his native Italy, the philosophy is to sample and savor the flavors of ingredients like him and the company of friends and family, not to overindulge.
Whether you’re ready to meet Pesto for the first time or eager to see him again, here are some dishes from participating Healthy Dining restaurants where he can be found:
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