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How to: make pistou

Photo - Gayvoronskaya_Yana/

The difference between a pistou and a pesto is pine nuts. 

The Italians use them, and the French (who took up the basil and garlic paste when Italian migrants moved into Provence in the 19th century) don’t. 


Typically a pistou is served with a soup made from summer vegetables and white beans. Think zucchini, button squash, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes, with a handful of a small pasta shapes. The pistou is served alongside so that diners can add as much of the garlicky mix as they like. A sprinkling of hard cheese, such as parmesan, is a good addition.

What you need:

100g basil

6 garlic cloves

175 ml olive oil

salt flakes


What to do:

Strip the leaves from the basil stems.

Cut and then mash the garlic with a few salt flakes, using a mortar and pestle. Add the basil leaves and continue to pound until the garlic and leaves are mashed to a pulp.

Next, whisk in the olive oil.

You can do all this in a food processor, but it really does taste better pounded.


A pistou will last for a few days in the fridge, but is best eaten fresh, as the garlic loses its zing and takes on rancid flavours if kept for too long.


More ways with pistou

- Spread pistou on toast and top with a fried egg

- Swirl pistou through hot pasta

- Serve pistou like the very similar Argentinean chimichurri (which uses parsley instead of the basil) as a sauce on barbecued meats.

- Serve pistou with platters of raw vegetable crudités and summer drinks

Text: Robin Powell 

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Author: Robin Powell