Pesto is probably the most important sauce in Italian cuisine. It originates from Genoa, Italy but is now sold worldwide. Pesto is a truly unique sauce as it can be added to virtually any dish! Do you want to make the most delicious and flavorful pasta or risotto? Or do you want to cook juicy meat for dinner or maybe just a quick, nutritious sandwich for breakfast?
In any case, pesto is your best go-to if you are looking for bright flavors. In this article, you will learn everything about pesto taste: what it tastes and smells like, what you eat pesto with, and what to do if it tastes too bitter or spicy.
What does pesto taste like? Pesto has a rich herby, spicy, cheesy, salty taste with hints of nuts and garlic. Pine nuts give the pesto a pleasantly soft, fatty texture; Parmesan cheese makes pesto taste bright and nutty, while garlic and basil give the pesto a pronounced aroma with hints of grassiness.
What does pesto smell like? Pesto has a pronounced fresh basil flavor with hints of garlic and creaminess coming from Parmesan cheese. High-quality pesto is extremely aromatic and bright, but no ingredients dominate each other – you can smell each ingredient individually.
Pesto Taste In-Depth Guide – All You Need to Know
Pesto has attracted the attention of gourmets from all around the world, thanks to its ingredients. The classic pesto version (Genovese) is made of pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, high-quality olive oil, fresh basil leaves, and garlic. The traditional pesto recipe has a pungent basil aroma, salty flavor (Parmesan), delicately creamy texture (olive oil), hints of sweetness (pine nuts), and pleasant spiciness (garlic, black pepper).
However, there are many variations of the sauce – some recipes include fresh corn, bacon, roasted tomatoes or bell peppers, artichoke hearts, kale leaves, mint, carrots, spinach, eggplant, and even anchovy fillets! Pesto is most often added to pasta and risotto, salad dressings, and grilled vegetables. However, pesto can be added to virtually any dish, except for desserts!
What is the texture of pesto? Pesto has a delicate buttery and smooth texture thanks to olive oil and pine nuts that make the sauce extra creamy and rich. High-quality pesto is not too oily nor too dry, it is just the perfect texture that will make any dish flavorful and bright.
Is Pesto Supposed to Be Spicy or Bitter?
Is pesto supposed to be spicy? Since pesto contains a lot of strong herbs and spices, including garlic, basil, black, and bell pepper, it acquires a strong spicy flavor. However, you do not want to add too many spices to not fade away the taste of other pesto ingredients.
Is pesto supposed to be bitter? No, pesto is not supposed to be bitter at all. If your pesto is bitter, it could be due to poor quality olive oil or off nuts. Add a pinch of salt and sugar to get rid of the bitterness. Always check the expiration date on the pesto jar.
How do you get the bitter taste out of pesto? The easiest way to get the bitter taste out of pesto is to add a pinch of salt and sugar. You can also add more pine nuts to make the pesto sweeter or garlic to give the sauce a more pungent and powerful flavor. If you like experimenting, we recommend adding some bacon or roasted tomatoes.
Why Does Pesto Taste Bad?
Why does pesto taste bad? Pesto might taste bad either because some of the ingredients are off (basil and oil, and sometimes Parmesan cheese), or it was not stored properly (open pesto needs to be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for not more than a week), or if pesto is of poor quality and low price.
Another reason why your pesto could taste bad is improper storing conditions. The best way to store homemade pesto is to put it in an airtight glass jar, add a few drops of high-quality olive oil on top, put the lid on, and store it in the fridge. The olive oil you sprinkle on top will keep pesto aromatic and prevent the oxygen reaction. However, homemade pesto should not be stored in the fridge for over 10 days. Try to make only a little bit of the sauce to keep it fresh.
If you want to store pesto long-term, you can freeze it! Simply put the sauce in tiny containers, cover it with a lid, and put it in the freezer. When needed, take the sauce from the freezer and use it in the dish. However, frozen pesto does not retain its dark green color, but the taste and aroma will be the same.
To ensure you get high-quality pesto with no bitterness, opt for trusted manufacturers and do not fall for a low price. Low-priced pesto usually contains cheap sunflower seed oil instead of virgin olive oil, cashew nuts instead of pine nuts, and some cheap cheese or even potato chips instead of Parmesan. Moreover, cheap pesto most often contains preservatives, acidity regulators, flavorings, and colorings. We strongly recommend you make pesto at home to ensure it is organic or opt for trusted brands, preferably Italian.
What Does Pesto Go With? Best Pesto Pairings
But what makes pesto sauce so good? Why does it go well with virtually any dish, be it meat, fish, vegetables, pasta, rice, or even bread? The answer is its ingredients! Fatty pine nuts make the paste delicate and smooth, giving it a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. Fresh basil gives the pesto a pungent grassy flavor with hints of mint. Salt enhances the flavor of the sauce and even reduces bitterness, so if your pesto is way too bitter, try adding a pinch of salt and sugar. Parmesan cheese makes pesto creamy and slightly salty, while olive oil adds the flavor of fresh herbs.
What do you eat pesto with? You can eat pesto with virtually anything: pasta, burgers, meatballs, risotto, steamed and grilled vegetables, pizza, sandwiches, mashed potatoes, salads, seafood (mussels, salmon, prawn, tuna), baked/grilled/fried beef, pork, chicken and turkey, bruschettas, crackers, bake into bread or mix in dips.
Pesto is often added to healthy salads with tuna, turkey, or chicken. If you do not have time to cook, you can always grab a loaf of fresh bread or a bun and spread nutritious pesto onto it, and enjoy a healthy breakfast. Pesto is commonly used for meat, fish, and chicken dishes (fried, grilled, baked, and even boiled). You can also add a spoonful of pesto to chicken or vegetable soups to make them creamier and richer. If you like hummus, you can add some pesto to make it more flavorful.
See also: 8 Best Avocado Substitutes in a Salad
When making pesto dishes, try adding the sauce after you have finished cooking or right before. Otherwise, pesto might lose its bright green color. If you add pesto to already prepared dishes, pesto will retain its vitamins and nutrients, so you will be able to enjoy all its health benefits (lowers cholesterol levels, stabilizes sugar levels, kills free radicals, improves skin, nail, and hair condition).
Pesto Taste FAQ
What tastes similar to pesto? Basil or parsley oil are the best and simplest pesto alternatives. Simply add some high-quality olive oil to finely chopped basil leaves, add salt, and black pepper to form a paste, and enjoy your dinner. Pesto tastes similar to oregano which can also be a great substitute if you run out of pesto.
Why does my pesto taste like grass? If your pesto tastes like grass, you might have added too many herbs or spices. To reduce the flavor of grassiness, add more Parmesan and olive oil. You can also add roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, or even blue cheese!
Can you eat pesto by itself? Pesto is too strong to eat straight from the jar. Instead, add a spoonful of pesto on fresh bread or bruschetta, and add some guacamole and cream to enjoy with green or black tea. Pesto has a too pronounced and rich flavor to eat by itself, so it can make you feel sick.