Who Are Pesto's Biggest Celebrity Fans?

Frank Sinatra, one of pesto's biggest celebrity fans

Short answer
Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, and none other than Pope John Paul II were huge fans of pesto, although you can find no end of famous actors, singers, and celebrities who have banged the drum for the world's greatest sauce.

Long answer
Although it took several decades for pesto to gain traction in the UK, the great and the good were enjoying it many years earlier, especially at the Genovese restaurant, Zeffirino. Here, celebrities including Sophia Loren, Luciano Pavarotti, and Liza Minelli were among their most famous diners who flocked there to eat what was considered the best pesto in the whole of Italy.

However, they weren't the only ones enchanted by pesto's charm. Here, we're exploring some of the other most famous champions of the sauce.

Pope John Paul II was a huge fan of pesto, and regularly had the sauce shipped to the Vatican from Zeffirino. That earned the restaurant the nickname “the Pope’s Pesto Maker."

Frank Sinatra's love of pesto was legendary, so much so that he even launched his very own pesto brand. Unfortunately, his star quality didn't translate into culinary quality, as it only survived a short time before disappearing from sale.

In more recent years, pop star and prolific songwriter Damon Albarn made headlines in 2020 for slicing off part of his finger when making pesto in a food processor. We guess that makes him not just a pioneer of Britpop but also a pioneer of the world's first black pudding-inspired pesto.

Mohammad Ali was known to regularly indulge in pesto, and Olympian diver Tom Daley made his favourite chicken, mozzarella, and pesto parcels live on daytime TV. Former middle-distance runner Carrie Tollefson raved about pesto on her YouTube channel, Cooking with Carrie, where she famously made it using spinach, pecans, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Rowland Rivron once revealed that pesto pasta was the only thing he was allowed to cook because he was hopeless in the kitchen and ruined everything else he tried to rustle up for his children. Comedians Roisin County and Greg Davies once got a hankering for pesto after a heavy drinking session and ended up sharing a whole jar of pesto on its own.

There is no end to the number of actors who have been vocal fans of pesto. Drew Barrymore demonstrated her version of the sauce live on The Ellen Show, while Stanley Tucci was blown away by a pesto made in a pestle and mortar on his TV series, Searching for Italy. In an interview with the Daily Mail, actor John Lithgow said that he wants his last meal on earth to be pasta with pesto.

TV presenters
Baking royalty and British institution Mary Berry has always been a strong advocate for pesto. However, she didn't impress many of her foodie fans when she demonstrated a dish featuring shop-bought pesto stirred through shop-bought pasta on her TV show, Foolproof Cooking. Great British Bake Off presenter and accidental finale spoiler Prue Leith ruffled a few feathers with her English version of pesto featuring walnuts and parsley, while Jamie Oliver, Gregg Wallace, and the Hairy Bikers are just a few of the many TV hosts who have shared their favourite pesto recipes.

A love of pesto isn't just reserved for people with talent; lots of supermodels love it too. Gigi Hadid fans were drooling over her pesto sandwich recipe, while Gisele Bündchen shared her favourite pesto recipe in her cookbook, Nourish. Karlie Kloss wasn't prepared to miss out on the action when she learned how to make a spinach and walnut pesto on her Youtube channel, KlossyKitchen.

Influencers and other halfwits
TikTok has brought fame to the doorsteps of pesto-loving average Joes too, the most well-known one being Susi Vidal. Her short video clip that started with the line "call me crazy if you want, but I’ve never liked store-bought pesto" amassed millions of views and even caught the attention of Gordon Ramsay, who declared her the Queen of Pesto.

Brooklyn Beckham has dabbled in many professions and worked as a model, photographer, bartender, and, most recently, a chef. Alongside delicacies including a bacon sandwich, a banana pancake, and a pasta sauce made from a shop-bought pasta sauce, his pesto made from pistachios, lemon, and spring onions didn't earn him too many Italian fans.

In 2002, the former Liberal Democrat politician and Cheeky Girls botherer, Lembit Öpik, launched a rather bizarre Early Day Motion demanding that spaghetti pesto be put back on the Commons menu. He gained the support of MP Peter Bottomley, who declared the dish "one of parliamentary catering's most successful culinary achievements." Elsewhere, John Major superfan Edwina Curry is said to have so much wild garlic growing in her garden that neighbours get to help themselves whenever they have a hankering for wild garlic pesto.

It's no great surprise that pesto has some very influential fans in the culinary world. The three Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura ruffled a few feathers when he published a pesto made with breadcrumbs rather than pine nuts, while fellow Italian cooks Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio have published numerous pesto recipes over the years.

Other chefs have turned their love of pesto into commercial ventures, none more so than Jamie Oliver, who is the face of numerous pesto sauces, including one containing red pepper and ricotta. Gino D’Acampo heads up Casalinga, which makes no fewer than ten different types of pesto, while Belazu teamed up with Angela Hartnett to launch a Sicilian-inspired pesto featuring raisons, capers, and saffron.