By VICTOR E. SASSON
After Costco Wholesale unveiled its own prepared basil pesto under the Kirkland Signature house brand, I ended the three-decade practice of making my own at home.
I used a blender recipe from Italian chef Marcella Hazan that calls for 2 full cups of fresh basil leaves -- the key to achieving the flavor and aroma that reminds me so much of spring.
I first tasted pesto with pasta in Nice, on the French Riviera, in the early 1970s, and continued to order it in restaurants in Manhattan and New Jersey, but only that first plate rivaled the flavor of Hazan's version.
I even tweaked her recipe by eliminating the butter, making sure I packed the 2 cups of basil leaves and using less salt, given the sodium in the grated cheese used to make the pesto.
Then, it was replaced by Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, which uses 100% Genovese basil from Italy, extra-virgin olive oil; Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese, also from Italy, and the pine nuts that are used in every Italian recipe.
Trader Joe's or Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto doesn't indicate where its basil comes from, and it uses "olive oil" and walnuts, instead of pine nuts.
Genova is Genoa, the Italian port city where pesto originated.
Trader Giotto's pesto has less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates than Costco's pesto.
But it also has less flavor, and when I prepared organic whole-wheat shells with Trader Joe's pesto, I felt the dish needed salt. I added freshly cracked black pepper instead.
|Organic whole-wheat shells from Whole Foods Market with Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto.|
More fiber, protein
Besides more flavor, Costco's pesto has more fiber and more protein than Trader Joe's pesto, and costs less per ounce.
Both are refrigerated products, and Costco's version has a "use or freeze by" date clearly visible on the side of the plastic jar. I can't read the date in smaller type on the bottom of the Trader Joe's plastic container, especially against the dark-green pesto.
Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto comes in a 7-ounce container for $2.99 -- probably not enough to dress a pound of its own organic whole-wheat pasta.
You can also use pesto as a sandwich spread, and to garnish frittatas, omelets and other egg dishes; broiled fish, baked sweet potatoes and more.
If you buy three containers of Trader Joe's pesto (21 ounces) for about $9, you'd be an ounce shy of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto's 22-ounce jar, which costs $7.99.
A need to restrict your salt intake is the only reason I can see for buying Trader Giotto's pesto instead of Costco's version.
|A wedge of frittata with Trader Joe's pesto on top of leftover organic whole-wheat spaghetti with garlic and spinach makes for a filling breakfast.|