The Pesto Matrix: Infuriating the Italians since 2023

Mission Statement

Despite our tongue-in-cheek tagline, we’re not actually here to aggravate traditionalists. Instead, we want to contribute to the debate about whether a sauce that deviates from the classic recipe of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Fiore Sardo, garlic, and salt (AKA pesto alla Genovese) has the right to call itself pesto.

To make this point as powerfully as possible, we’ve devised a system that can churn out over 37 million different pestos, all of which are broadly based on the traditional recipe.

There are plenty of people who believe pesto can contain any number of non-traditional ingredients, and many of them are top Italian chefs. Massimo Bottura uses breadcrumbs in his recipe whilst Giada De Laurentiis makes a pesto with orange, lemon, and almonds. Giorgio Locatelli adds tomatoes and pepper to his, while Aldo Zilli has been known to add asparagus and butter to his.

When it comes to shop-bought pesto, Gino D’Acampo’s company Casalinga sells pesto made from some extraordinary ingredients, including beetroot, cauliflower, and broccoli, whilst Sacla is proud of its range of over 15 pesto sauces that contain everything from coriander to salami.

In pesto’s homeland of Genoa, though, you’re going to be laughed (or possibly pelted) out of town for deviating from the classic recipe that they hold so dear to their hearts. Restauranteur Roberto Panniza is the biggest voice on the matter, calling for pesto to be protected by EU law so that no other sauce can piggyback off its name.

On the flip side, you have a US-based blogger, Jessica Paholsky. On her popular Once Upon a Pesto website, she makes the point that the word “pesto” comes from the verb pestare (meaning to pound or to crush), thereby meaning that pesto is a process, not a recipe.

Which side are you on? Drop us a line, and we’ll publish some of your best comments here.