Some of the most popular Italian-inspired sauces include marinara, marsala, creamy vodka, alfredo, and carbonara, just to name a few. But a pesto-base should not be discounted. While some of the sauces listed above are best paired with pasta, a zesty, pesto sauce works great with a variety of different foods. From a grilled chicken sandwich to a homemade pizza crust, pesto can complement just about anything, making it an extremely versatile kitchen essential. Additionally, it does not contain any of the heavy creams found in an alfredo or carbonara sauce. Instead, it has a ton of healthy fats that will support a nutrient-dense diet.Although pesto only includes a few ingredients, you may not want to spend the time whipping up a do-it-yourself concoction. Luckily, there are a ton of store-bought pesto’s that are quite delicious and contain fresh ingredients. That’s why we’ve developed a guide that covers various presto brands, analyzing their ingredient lists and the practices used to develop the sauce. Here are the best store-bought pesto sauces that’ll add a little bit of zest to any meal.
Mezzetta Basil Pesto Sauce. This traditional, basil-based pesto sauce includes extremely high-quality ingredients and can be used on a wide array of Italian-inspired dishes. It is rich in flavor, without being too overpowering. This is an authentic-tasting sauce that can be trusted to compliment your favorite recipes.
Classico Traditional Basil Pesto Sauce and Spread. The Classico Basil Pesto Sauce and Spread is an affordable option that can be used as a staple item in your condiment drawer. It has a zesty, light flavor that arises from the fresh basil leaves. For the quality-level of this sauce, it is quite reasonably priced and is an excellent choice if your grocery list is on a strict budget.
Quick Comparison: Top 12 Best Store-Bought Pesto
1. Mezzetta Basil Pesto Sauce
This pesto sauce by Mezzetta uses a classic Italian recipe to embolden the flavors stemming from fresh basil leaves and rich parmesan cheese. Their pesto mixture is inspired by the technique used in Genoa, Italy. Using traditional ingredients helps to bring the long-established, delicious taste of pesto into any dish. Mezzetta recommends adding this to pasta, meat, fish, vegetables, or any dish that needs a little extra zest.Mezzetta has stuck to their simple, traditional Italian recipes for over 85 years. This is a family-built company that started in 1935 when Giuseppe Mezzetta dreamt of bring the taste of Italy to his new hometown of San Francisco. Today, they continue to stand by their original recipes, flavors, and quality ingredients in each of their products. They offer a whole garlic and sweet basil red sauce, parmigiana Reggiano, truffle porcini cream sauce, and much more.
2. Classico Traditional Basil Pesto Sauce and Spread
The Classico Basil Pesto Sauce and Spread is a versatile product that can be used on various food types. With a thicker consistency compared to other options, this can be mixed into pastas and used as the main sauce ingredient or spread on cracker and used as a delicious dip. Regardless, the jar is packed full of traditional Italian ingredients that all add up to an excellent pesto flavor. Just remember, after opening it you must place it in the refrigerator for future use.Classico has been crafting a variety of pasta sauces for over 25 years, using only quality ingredients like fresh basil, newly ripened tomatoes, aged cheeses, and thick olive oil. The company uses mason jars for their packaging to pay tribute to the Italian cooks that put their left-over sauce in clear jars to show off their impressive creations.
3. Seggiano, Fresh Basil Pesto
The pesto sauce from Seggiano provides a great balance between affordability and authenticity. This sauce has a potent basil flavor, as the leaves are left raw and unpasteurized. They even come from a fresh Ligurian basil plant. The leaves are then placed in a thick-consistency olive oil for several hours until the flavors of each fully combine. As a result, this sauce truly has an authentic taste. It’s best when used on pasta, or spread on fish, chicken, meats, potatoes, or vegetables.Seggiano was started by a couple who both had a passion for developing quality food, with a focus on sustainable agriculture. They started out by making an extra virgin olive oil on their southern Tuscan farm, and that eventually grew into a full line of sauces, condiments, desserts, and other traditional Italian goods.
4. Prego Basil Pesto Sauce
This classic basil pesto sauce from Prego, which is an affiliate of Campbell’s, is made from zesty, fresh basil and rich, yet creamy Romano cheese. Substituting Parmesan with Romano, gives this sauce a richer, more robust flavor. If you’re looking for something a bit denser in terms of consistency, this is the option the go for. It will taste great in a pasta dish or as a marinade on meat and vegetables.The Campbell’s vast line of goods include sauces, soups, crackers, beverages, and more. Each product is designed to include fresh ingredients that are packaged with quality and care. In addition to their yummy pesto sauce, Prego also offers a traditional marinara, carbonara sauce, creamy lemon parmesan sauce, marsala sauce, and so much more.
5. Vincente Sicilian Pistachio Pesto
This Sicilian pesto sauce is both creamy and luxurious. It stems away from the more traditional method of using a basil-base and uses pistachios as an alternative. Actually, as a company, Vincente uses a combination of pistachio plants as the basis to most of their recipes. This unique fruit provides an unmistakable flavor unlike any other.Vincente employees pick every pistachio by hand. After harvesting, they are placed in olive oil to help perverse their natural flavors. They use the highest quality of care in every step of the process, from the initial selection of materials to production and finally, packaging. Everything is done in Bronte, Sicily and then carefully shipped throughout the globe. Additionally, the company uses only photovoltaic and renewable energy to help aid environmental protections and reduce overall emissions.
6. Filippo Berio Classic Basil Pesto
This Filippo pesto sauce is made in the United Kingdom and distributed throughout the world. It pulls from the traditional Genovese recipe of using freshly picked basil as the base of the sauce. By using two different types of cheese, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano, this sauce is erupting with unique and distinct flavors. It’s a great additive to pasta, potatoes, sandwiches, soups, pasta salads, and various dips. This sauce is higher in sodium compared to other options on the market.The lineup of Filippo Berio sauces is meant to support a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits. Most of their items are organic, grown without the use of genetically modified organisms. They are also certified Kosher.
7. Barilla Traditional Basil Pesto Sauce
Barilla is a vastly popular company that makes pastas, sauces, and other high-quality products. Their pesto sauce is both delicious and affordable. It is made with raw ingredients, like the finely grated cheese that is infused into the mixture. It pulls from the classic, Genoa recipe, which is used by many of the previously mentioned brands. It has a light, delicate, and sweet flavor that would taste great when paired with a fresh pasta dish or sprinkled on top of homemade pizza. This is a product that is imported from Italy, providing a true, authentic Ligurian flavor.
8. ROI Imported Italian Ligurian Pesto Sauce
This ROI pesto sauce is also inspired by the long-standing Ligurian cooking culture and traditions. As a tribute to local Italian practices, this sauce is made with only the finest ingredients and herbs, delivering a flavor that is the perfect combination of garlicy, salty, cheesy, yet light. It’s best when combined with pasta, fish or soup. There is also a pesto rosso flavor offered, which adds sundried tomatoes into the ingredient list for a delicious twist on the classic pesto recipe.ROI is mainly known for their carefully grown olives, and the rich, Mediterranean flavors inside each one. They also offer other Italian specialty foods and pantry items, like their Ligurian pesto sauce. Every ingredient is grown on a family-owned farm that has been involved with the brand for several generations. ROI also uses sustainable methods to remain environmentally conscious, and ultimately create items that have an authentic Italian flavor.
9. Montalbano alla Genovese Basil Pesto Sauce
This sauce stays true to the classic Genovese pesto recipe, using only Ligurian-grown basil and a variety of cheeses. When combining these simple, yet conventional ingredients it makes for an authentic Italy-inspired pesto sauce. It’s best when mixed into a bowl of trofie (a type of pasta), which is how the Ligurian region of Italy prefers to eat their pesto dishes. It will also taste great in other pasta types or on top of a freshly baked piece of bread.Montalbano was named after the Tuscan countryside and its rolling hills. The company was established in 1965 and continues to be a trusted brand in the sauce industry. Their products are still developed in Italy, with the aim to deliver quality, innovative food across the globe.
10. Kirkland Signature Italian Basil Pesto
The Kirkland Signature Italian Basil Pesto takes classic Italian cooking methods and incorporates them into more modern American approach. This is a Genovese basil-based pesto that has 100% of its basil leaves imported from Italy. This rich pesto sauce incorporates hints of zesty garlic and dynamic cheese flavors, without any ingredient overpowering another. The consistency is not as smooth compared to some other sauces; it has crunchy, yet delicious pieces throughout the spread. What’s great about the Kirkland pesto is the amount per container. For the price, it’s much larger than some of the other options. Overall, this has a classic pesto taste at an affordable price.
11. Compagnia Sanremo Basil Pesto
Here is another basil-based pesto sauce by Compagnia Sanremo. This is a versatile ingredient that can be used as the main source of sauce on different types of pastas, lasagna, or even gnocchi. Additionally, you can use it as a spread on chicken or seafood, for other pesto-inspired dishes. This sauce is made and packaged in Italy, providing only the finest Italian flavors.Compagnia Sanremo was established to help bring the exquisite delicacies of Italian cuisine to the United States. Every product is affordable and packed full of quality ingredients, which are sourced from local Italian farmers and artisans. Some other items they offer include olive oil, vinegar, fresh pasta, plus a variety of sauces and condiments.
12. Sacla Wild Garlic Pesto
This wild garlic pesto sauce contains a unique zest of flavors and slightly steers away from the traditional pesto taste. If you’re a garlic-lover, this is the right choice for you. This product combines a lemony garlic bend with fresh basil and creamy cheeses. It has a thinner consistency and works great as a salad dressing or as a spread on a sandwich.The basil plants used by Sacla are carefully hand-planted and then harvested two months later. Every basil leaf is meticulously picked along the Italian countryside. Within 24 hours, the fresh leaves are combined with olive oil, pine nuts, and cheese, and ultimately packaged and distributed. This is a family-run business that takes prides in creating high-quality, Italian-focused products.
Things to Consider When Buying a Store-Bought Pesto for a Zesty Meal
Homemade Versus Store-Bought
Sure, you could make a homemade pesto, but some of the store-bought options are just as good. You simply have to find the right one that fits your needs and budgets.
A homemade pesto sauce is done by blending together your preferred ingredients into a consistency that is smooth and neither too thick nor watery. Common ingredients include basil, cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and some form of nuts. Essentially, you could use pine nuts, cashews, or really any nutty-flavored item.
Who has the time to gather the specific ingredients and blend it into the right consistency? Sometimes, it’s just easier and more convenient to buy the best store-bought pesto either at the grocery store or online.
What Kind of Base Does the Sauce Have?
Most pesto’s have a basil base. This is the more traditional way of doing things, as it is the method used in Italy. A basil-based pesto has more of a fresh, clean flavor. But this isn’t the only way to make a delicious pesto spread. For example, the Vincente Sicilian sauce uses a pistachio-base, which in turn creates a sweeter, creamier sauce.
No pesto-base is better than the other. It all depends on your flavor preferences. One option is savorer (basil), while the other option is sweeter (pistachio). Additionally, since the pistachio-base is less widely used, these products tend to be more exclusive, and therefore expensive.
If you have a nut allergy, pesto may not be the right sauce-choice for you. Most brands contain blended pieces of pine nuts, nut shells, or traces of tree nuts. Regardless, it’s best to check the ingredient list and read the fine print before tasting the sauce. There are nut-free options on the market as well.
Believe it or not, pesto contains ingredients that provide various health benefits. Most sauces contain some version of the following - basil, olive oil, cheese, and nuts. The main benefit comes from the oil component. Olive oil is rich in healthy, energy-dense fats, which are proven to be beneficial in many ways.
Olive oil is filled with antioxidants and various minerals and vitamins. Often, calorie-rich, fatty oils are associated with weight gain. On the contrary, they contain monounsaturated fats, which are actually healthier cooking choice. This fat-type can help to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, help to prevent strokes, delay the effects of neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s Disease, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. All in all, there are a plethora of health benefits associated with olive oil, and therefore pesto.
If you are vegan or trying to avoid dairy, there are a few pesto sauce options available - the Compagnia Sanremo Basil Pesto and the Seggiano Fresh Basil Pesto. Essentially, these sauces do not contain any cheese and therefore are deemed dairy-free and vegan-friendly.
Different pesto brands have varying consistencies. Some are smoother, while others are thicker in texture. Just because a sauce is a little clumpy doesn’t mean it isn’t good or has expired, it simply means the recipe calls for less olive oil.
When considering the consistency of a sauce, you should think about what you plan to use it for. For example, if you want to use it as a salad dressing, you would look for an option that is liquid-like. If you’re using it as a spread on crackers or pizza, something with a thick concentrated density is best.
Variants of Pesto
Pesto can come in a variety of flavors, with different ingredients used. Changing just one ingredient, like the type of nut used, can alter the overall taste all together. Companies will often switch out pine nuts for almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts because of expenditure restrictions. A traditional pine nut provides a distinct flavor, while a hazelnut has another. Depending on how the nut is cooked, roasted or toasted, can also change the flavor and level of smokiness.
Another varying factor is the type of oil used. Popular options include extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Typically, olive oil is most desired and produces a more authentic taste.
Additionally, traditional Genoese recipes exclude the use of black or white pepper, while many current American recipes tend to include these ingredients. This will also substantially change the flavor of the sauce.
It’s best to read the ingredient list before purchasing a certain product. Typically, the ingredients used are pretty standard, so if something is added or missing it should stand out.