What Is Peruvian Pesto?

Condensed milk

Short answer
Tallarines verdes ("green noodles" in English) is a Peruvian pasta dish that gets its vibrant colour from a sauce commonly referred to as Peruvian pesto.

Long answer
Peruvian pesto is the nickname for a sauce that features spinach, basil, garlic, queso fresco, olive oil, and, rather controversially, condensed milk. It is inspired by the recipe for basil pesto which Italian immigrants took with them to Peru when they began settling there in the early 19th century.

The sauce bears more than a few similarities to traditional Italian pesto, thanks to the inclusion of basil, garlic, and olive oil. However, it has several regional twists, including the switching of Parmesan for fresh (fresco) cheese and substituting pine nuts for walnuts. The addition of a highly unconventional ingredient, condensed milk, gives it a super-creamy texture and a subtle sweetness that we can only describe as an acquired taste.

The sauce is popular in neighbouring Ecuador and Bolivia and is almost always served with spaghetti, fried chicken, or grilled steaks. Just like in Italian cuisine, there is a red version of the sauce that gets its colour from the inclusion of tomatoes and the deep burgundy Aji Panca chilli that makes its way into many of the country's dishes.

Peruvian pesto recipe for 10 servings

Spinach 200g
Queso fresco 150g
Condensed milk 125g
Basil 60g
Olive oil 60g
Walnuts 25g
Onion x1
Garlic x2 cloves
Salt pinch
Lime squeeze
Butter knob

Dice the onion and sweat it in a little butter until softened but not browned.

Add to a food processor along with everything except the olive oil and blitz to your ideal consistency.

Transfer everything to a mixing bowl and stream in the olive oil, stirring by hand.

Serve with perfectly al-dente spaghetti (around 75g per person) and accompany with a protein of your choice.