We put branded products to the test so you know the ones to look out for. This month, we tried different types of pesto to see which came out on top.
Looking for the best pesto to buy? Read on to find the results of our pesto taste test. Looking for pesto recipes? Try our best pesto recipes.
What is pesto?
Pesto alla Genovese, as it’s often called, is named after its birthplace in Genoa, Italy. It’s made with parmesan, pecorino or a mix of both, plus basil, pine nuts (although other nuts such as cashews may be used) and olive oil. Traditionally, it’s made by bashing the ingredients together with a pestle, hence the name. It’s a versatile sauce but is often used in simple pasta suppers. It’s also great on boiled potatoes, tomato salads or grilled fish.
How we tested
We tried all the pestos on their own, looking out for consistency and balance of flavours and textures. We then tried the top six contenders stirred into al dente spaghetti.
The results of the best pesto taste test
Joint winner: Belazu Traditional Genovese Pesto, £2.85/165g
With a high 45% basil content, this is really herby and fragrant. Dark green and thick with chunks of pine nuts, it has a great acidity balance and is creamy, which works well on pasta. It has a deeply savoury flavour from the pine nuts that’s cut with a mild lemon note, parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil. A great traditional pesto.
Joint winner: Casalinga Basil Pesto, £3.50/160g
This pesto is gorgeously garlicky, with a chunky texture from roughly chopped cashews and pine nuts, and a good amount of oil to make it spoonable. Drizzle this over pizza and bruschetta.
One of the thickest in consistency, this cashew-based pesto has quite a coarse, chunky texture. It’s a rich, glossy sauce with floral basil sweetness. There are big chunks of nuts and it’s flavoured with Parmigiano Reggiano for umami saltiness. A classic, perfect for pasta or tomato salads.
One of the freshest-tasting pestos, with a really good cheesy hit thanks to a mixture of pecorino and parmesan. There’s a hint of garlic and it’s not too nutty, but it has a smooth texture and is quite oily. This carries the flavour well in dressings or on potatoes.
Made with a decent amount of cheese, this smooth pesto packs a salty punch. It also features Genovese basil and extra-virgin olive oil, which provide floral, herby notes. It’s a great pesto to use in dressings and sauces as it has a hint of cracked black pepper for spiciness, too.
This was one of the smoothest pestos on test, and it has quite a lot of sweetness from a mixture of walnuts and pine nuts. But, a combination of Grana Padano and pecorino gives this a sweet-salty balance and smooth, pourable consistency. It’s excellent with pasta or swirled into soup.
Other expert taste tests from the olive cookery team:
Tinned tomatoes taste test
Marmalade taste test
Anchovies taste test
White miso taste test
Salted butter taste test
Strawberry jam taste test
Hummus taste test
Dried spaghetti taste test
Oat milk taste test
Smoked salmon taste test