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By James Peterson

Published 1991

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Although most people associate pesto with the traditional Genoese version of crushed pine nuts, garlic, basil, cheese, and olive oil, pesto simply means “pestle.” The term’s meaning is, in fact, applied to a whole family of sauces made of solid ingredients crushed to a paste in a mortar or food processor. Perhaps it is the rough-and-tumble last-minute character of these sauces or the brightly flavored ingredients they contain that make them among the most satisfying of foods.

Pistou is the southern French version of pesto and differs from Genoese pesto only in that it sometimes contains tomatoes but never pine nuts. It is used almost exclusively to finish the French version of minestrone, called soupe au pistou.