Which pesto is the besto Middle-class Britain has a passion for pesto – but can you rely on the quality We put top brands to the test-o
09:01 GMT, 20 November 2012
Amanda Cable made her own pesto sauce to see if it measured up to its High Street rivals
Like olive oil before it, pesto is becoming a staple in British kitchens. Usually made from garlic, pine nuts, basil, olive oil and Parmesan, it’s a tasty and quick pasta topping.
But last week a supermarket supplier was fined for using cheap oil and Latvian cheese instead of the high-quality ingredients it claimed.
So what variety is best Nutritionist Angela Dowden and Amanda Cable investigate.
M Savers green pesto (69p for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 339 cals, 4.1g sat fat, 1.8g salt
TASTE: Cheap and nasty, with a vinegary and processed aftertaste. Fine for students who want a quick meal and if adding to a recipe, but any discerning foodie will demand more.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: This is cheaper because it is made with sunflower oil rather than olive oil. While it doesn’t taste great, sunflower oil is a good source of vitamin E, which protects cells.
Red Pesto (1.99 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 315 calories, 6g saturated fat, 1.4g salt
TASTE: This tastes fresh and moreish — a deliciously thick pesto for pasta. Demand for red pesto (made with tomatoes and peppers) is driven entirely by the UK market. Based on the taste of this one, I’m not surprised.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: The saturated fat content looks high, but it’s a bit of a catch-22 with pesto. If you use authentic, quality ingredients, it will be naughtier on the health front. On the plus side, it’s so tasty you don’t need much.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (1.59 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (PER 100G) 266 cals, 3.5g sat fat, 1.5g salt
TASTE: My children — who all have finely honed pesto palates — declared that this looked like cat sick. It also had a bitter aftertaste.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: Look on the jar to see how many ingredients are added. Generally, the more additions, the lower the quality. There’s a fairly substantial list here, including vegetable fibre, acidity regulator, lactic acid and garlic powder — so it won’t taste as fresh as any home-made effort.
Tesco Classic Green Pesto
Classic green pesto (1 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 335 cals, 4.7g sat fat, 2g salt
TASTE: Far less oily than other efforts, and a salty taste that would appeal to those who want their pasta to pack a punch. A good option if you want to flavour a lot of pasta with just one pot.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: Ok, apart from the high salt — a modest 50g dollop would provide a sixth of your daily limit. If you are searching for quality on a label, Parmesan is always the more expensive cheese.
This jar contains Grana Padano, which is the next level down in terms of cost, but still has a delicious flavour.
Italian red pesto sauce (1.35 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 305 cals, 3.6g sat fat, 1.2g salt
Bold flavours mean it doesn’t taste like a budget option and, unlike
some of the others, there’s a good balance between oil and sauce.
This contains sun-dried tomatoes, a useful source of the antioxidant
lycopene, which has been linked to a lower risk of strokes. For a budget
option, it has healthy ingredients.
Asda's ricotta and red pepper pesto
Ricotta And Red Pepper Pesto (1.28 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (PER 100g) 256 cals, 3g sat fat, 1.5g salt
TASTE: Claimed the crown for being the most inedible pesto we tried. Everyone in our family of five spat it out. It was a nasty orange colour and had a hideous smell.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: Shame it gets such a panning taste-wise as — despite some odd filler ingredients such as potato flakes and vegetable fibre — it’s made from more than 50 per cent peppers and tomatoes and has a lot going for it nutritionally, with a good smattering of protective antioxidants.
Pesto Genovese (99p for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 488 cals, 7.6g sat fat, 2.18g salt
TASTE: Lots of oil on the top of this, so it needed a good mix. Strong Parmesan flavour and you could taste the salt, even when mixed with pasta.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: This one is high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol and lead to heart disease. The high cheese content gives it flavour but makes it one of our least healthy options.
Italian basil pesto (1 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 371 cals, 5.1g sat fat, 2g salt
TASTE: This looked like mould, with a slimy, processed texture and horrible vinegar-like flavour.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: There are nice ingredients here, which are good for the price, but a strange green colour.
Napolina green pesto
Chilli pesto (2.19 for 190g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 334 cals, 2.6g sat fat, 1g salt
TASTE: Overwhelming flavour of cheese and a very strong kick from the chilli made this one rather difficult to swallow.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: Another non-authentic pesto — it contains ricotta not Parmesan, sunflower oil not olive and not a hint of basil. The peppers, tomato and chilli make it a pasta sauce, not a pesto. All that chilli should deter slimmers from piling too much on.
Fresh spicy roasted pepper pesto (2.99 for 185g)
CONTAINS: (per 100g) 247 cals, 4.1g sat fat, 1.3g salt
TASTE: This fresh sachet has a delicious pepper flavour and a texture that looks home-made.
NUTRITIONIST VERDICT: Contains 31 per cent roasted pepper — roasting releases the beta-carotene, which is good for boosting your immune system. However, a serving of this will provide only about a third of one of your five a day.
Prices and availability may vary according to regions.