Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of north Italy, and from the time the Italians invented pesto it has always been prepared with crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and including cheese made from sheep’s milk.
It is possible the mineral-rich seaside soil and temperate climate of Liguria is why pesto sauce has become a beloved sauce in northern Italy, as they have the perfect conditions for growing basil.
What does Pesto mean?
The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound, or to crush. Pesto was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle.
The ingredients were pounded or crushed with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar.
The book “Pesto Genovese: an Ageless Benchmark of Great Italian Cuisine,” writes that the ancient romans ate a paste called moretum, prepared by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together.