What Is Pesto Pantesco?

Capre bush

Short answer
Pesto Pantesco is a style of pesto made on the Italian island of Pantelleria. The recipe typically includes capers, tomatoes, and almonds. It has a tangy, slightly spicy flavour and is often used as a sauce for fish dishes.

Long answer
Hailing from the tiny, windswept island of Pantelleria around 60 miles south-west of Sicily, Pesto Pantesco is best known for utilising the abundance of capers whose bushes thrive on its volcanic terrain. These pretty plants produce little edible flower buds that are packed in salt for up to 2 months to cure and remove their excessive bitterness.

Rather like Marmite, people tend to either love or hate capers. We often wonder whether the haters have been fed some straight from the jar and been overwhelmed with their briny pungency. What we always suggest to people who have caper-sceptics in their lives is to try giving the capers a soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes before serving and see if it changes their minds. You can even deep-fry capers and enjoy them as a salty and very unhealthy snack!

While Pesto Pantesco's recipe bears similarities to traditional pesto, its inclusion of capers shows how people have always adapted the basic recipe to use the freshest and most abundant ingredients in the countryside around them. It is a beautiful concept that is the building block of everything we do here at GO! Pesto.

Pesto Pantesco recipe

Olive oil 100g
Basil* 50g
Capers 20g
Tomatoes x4
Garlic x1 clove
Almonds 30g
Salt generous pinch
Chilli flakes optional

* Alternatively, you could use a combination of basil, parsley, mint, or oregano.

Most recipes call for you to reach for your food processor. That's undeniably a convenient and speedy way to make pesto, but we guarantee your sauce will taste a whole lot better if you use a pestle and mortar.

With a paring knife, make a small cross on the side of each tomato and blanch them in boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, peel, and discard the skins. Quarter the tomatoes, scoop them out and discard the seeds. Blot the tomatoes dry with a sheet of kitchen roll and roughly chop.

Peel the garlic clove and add it to the mortar along with a generous pinch of sea salt flakes. With your pestle, start to break down the garlic (using the salt as an abrasive) by bashing, stirring, or using whatever technique works for you.

Add the almonds, continue to pound, and stir into a smooth paste.

Add the tomatoes, capers, basil, and chilli flakes (if using) and continue to work the sauce for another minute or two before slowly streaming in the oil.

Refrigerate and use within 3 days, or freeze for up to a month.

To serve
For maximum authenticity, serve your Pantesco pesto with al dente linguine pasta.