When Was Pesto Invented?

La Cuciniera Genovese by Giovanni Battista Ratto

Short answer
The first mention of pesto can be dated to 1863, but as with all things food-related, there's a lot more than initially meets the eye.

Long answer
The question of when pesto was invented is a bit of a misnomer because the sauce wasn’t so much “invented” by an individual or at a precise date, but developed and honed over many centuries. What we can say with certainty though, is that the very first use of the word “pesto” was in 1863 when a recipe by Giovanni Battista Ratto appeared in the book La Cuciniera Genovese.

The truth is, the mixing of herbs, cheese, salt and oil into a tasty sauce can be traced right back to Roman times when they enjoyed a sauce called moretum. The Genovese simply adapted and honed this concept to utilise all the amazing ingredients that grew in the hills around them.

The Sicilians did the same by including their world-class tomatoes and switching the pine nuts for almonds into a sauce we now know as pesto trapanese. The French have their own version too, called pistou, which is practically identical but without the nuts.

When you look into other cultures and cuisines, you’ll find a myriad of sauces that all bare striking similarities to what we all regard as the authentic basil pesto. Our aim here at GO! Pesto is to realise them in a way no producer has done before.

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