Originating in Genoa, in the Liguria region of Italy, pesto is an uncooked sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese and olive oil. Pesto is traditionally prepared by hand using a mortar and pestle (pesto, from pestare, means to pound). Back in the days of seafaring merchants and explorers, sailors knew they were almost home when they smelled the sweet scent of basil wafting from the hillsides above Genoa, where the aromatic herb flourishes.

Today, pesto is made with a variety of other ingredients besides basil. Roasted red bell peppers, arugula, mint and olives are all wonderful foundations for the sauce, as you will discover with the recipes featured here. Often tossed with cooked pasta, pesto is also delicious served on crostini, spooned onto grilled seafood or chicken, or tucked inside steaks before cooking.