Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hey Pesto! Italians Serve Up a Purple Twist on the Pasta Sauce

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hey Pesto! Italians Serve Up a Purple Twist on the Pasta Sauce

Article excerpt

Byline: Naomi Ackerman in Verona

FOODIES will have a new dish to embrace from today as purple pesto arrives in London.

Invented in Piedmont, northern Italy, the alternative to the green basil-based sauce is relatively unknown around the country as it is rarely found outside the area.

ASK Italian contacted Il Buongusto, a small family-owned basil farm near Verona, and commissioned a crop of purple-coloured plants in order to produce more than three tonnes of pesto for their 160 UK restaurants.

Il Buongusto accountant and manager Beatrice Petrassi told the Standard in Italy: "The other week people walked by our fields and I could hear them saying: 'What is it?' Most people [in Italy] don't even know it is grown here and not just in Liguria.

"We make the purple basil pesto here in separate machines. We wash and dry the leaves and then the leaves and all the ingredients go under a giant blade, then the mix is sieved and then comes out through a pipe into the pots. The process takes around 30 minutes."

Ms Petrassi, whose employees pick cuts by hand at dawn as tractors would damage the tiny yields, added: "It's magic. In just a few moments you see leaves and different ingredients become a cream."

Purple basil is sold as seeds and shrubs in UK gardening centres but has not previously been turned into pesto on an industrial scale. Made with pine nuts or cashews, the condiment costs about 50 per cent more to produce than its green counterpart as purple basil plants are smaller and require more care, according to distributors Belazu. After supplying a major chain and gauging reaction, Belazu sales director Charlie Hodges hopes to sell the product to other UK restaurants.

He said: "As far as I'm aware this has never been done for the UK before. At the moment this farm is the only one we have producing it and we are only distributing the purple pesto for ASK, but we will produce more if people [in England] like it and want it. …

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