What Is Olive Pesto?

Brandon May
Brandon May
An olive tree.
An olive tree.

Pesto is an Italian dressing made of basil, olive oil, and pine nuts blended together into a smooth cream. This dressing is often used as a topping for salads and pastas in different European dishes. Olive pesto uses these same ingredients yet adds a significant amount of olives, either black or green or both, to the original recipe. Depending on the type of olive used, the addition to the pesto gives a richer color and flavor to the original recipe. Often pasta dishes will call for this pesto to be served over spaghetti or fettuccine, and sometimes olive pesto will be spread on crackers or olive focaccia bread or used as a topping on a salad.

Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.
Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.

When traditional pesto is made, three main ingredients are used to bind together and make the actual sauce. Olive oil, which is the liquid portion of the sauce, also provides half of the creaminess to the pesto. The pine nuts, which are blended into the olive oil by using a food processor or blender, also provide more fat and creaminess. The basil adds flavor and color, but is sometimes left out in olive pesto to be replaced by the equivalent amount of fresh olives. Other fresh herbs, like mint, are sometimes used but not often in the more traditional pesto recipes.

Olive pesto often used green olives.
Olive pesto often used green olives.

Olive pesto will still use olive oil, yet will usually contain quite a bit more oil due to the fat content of the added olives. Often green olives are used in this version of pesto as to resemble the green color of traditional pesto made with fresh basil. Some pestos that call for a large amount of olives will sometimes use half black and half green olives, blending the flavors and varying the taste and color. A small amount of sea salt is added to olive pesto to bring out the flavor of the olives and olive oil, and also provides a smoother, pleasing taste.

Olive pesto uses olive oil and a significant amount of olives.
Olive pesto uses olive oil and a significant amount of olives.

Other variations of the olive pesto include using almonds, cashews, and walnuts in place of the pine nuts, creating a thicker and nuttier tasting base. These nuts are often toasted and ground into a flour before adding the olive oil, olives, and spices. Using steamed kale is also another additional ingredient to some pestos, and can be used in any pesto containing olives. More often than not, olive pesto can be extremely versatile, allowing different variations with a wide range of ingredients.

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    • An olive tree.
      An olive tree.
    • Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.
      By: Studio Gi
      Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.
    • Olive pesto often used green olives.
      By: volff
      Olive pesto often used green olives.
    • Olive pesto uses olive oil and a significant amount of olives.
      By: Angel Simon
      Olive pesto uses olive oil and a significant amount of olives.
    • Steamed kale can be used in any pesto containing olives.
      By: GVictoria
      Steamed kale can be used in any pesto containing olives.