Why Is Pesto Called Pesto?

Dictionary definition

Short answer
The word “pesto” comes from the Italian verb “pestare”, meaning to pound or crush.

Long answer
Pesto is such a lovely word that we really wish it had a passionate, romantic backstory. The truth is though, “pesto” comes from the past participle of the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare), meaning “to pound”. So really not that romantic at all.

The name is a reference to the pestle and mortar that cooks used before the electric food processor was invented. Though impractical for food manufacturers, making pesto the traditional way leads to significantly improved flavours.

We rather like the fact that the word is based on a verb rather than a noun. To us, that means that by definition, pesto isn’t about ingredients but a process.

Whilst it may not sit pretty with some Italians, we think this fact gives chefs as much poetic licence as they like to call their sauce a "pesto", even if it doesn't share the same ingredients as the traditional pesto alla Genovese we all know and love.

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