What is Pesto Modenese?

Rosemary - as used in Pesto Modena

Short answer
Pesto Modenese (also called lardo pesto) is a simple condiment made from nothing more than rosemary, garlic, and cured pork fat.

Long answer
Colloquially known as cunza, Pesto Modenese hails from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Just like the official pesto recipe, this sauce contains a generous amount of garlic, but that is where the similarities end.

The most striking ingredient in this largely white sauce is lardo, which is pork belly fat. Unlike most other pestos, which people tend to pair with pasta, this Modenese creation is traditionally eaten with a style of flatbread called tigelle and sprinkled with Parmesan.

An English muffin makes for a perfectly good alternative if you want to recreate this popular street food at home. Just make sure to warm the bread all the way through, as having the lardo melt into the bread is an essential part of the experience.

You can find pesto Modenese for sale in some high-end delis, but it’s so easy to rustle up that there's no reason not to make it yourself.


Lardo 250g
Garlic x2 cloves
Rosemary x2 sprigs

Reach for a food processor if you really want to, but the essential oils in the rosemary and garlic will be released much better by using a pestle and mortar.

Simply peel the garlic cloves, remove the leaves from the rosemary sprigs, and finely chop. Add to a pestle and mortar and work the ingredients until they reach your preferred consistency. We like to keep it a little chunky, but continue working it if you prefer a smoother mouthfeel.

Add the pork fat, work for a minute or two longer, and serve immediately on some warm, crusty bread.