It’s not that difficult to make homemade pesto. All you really need is a bunch of basil, some parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a good quality olive oil. However, if the thought of breaking out your blender sends you running for the hills, DeCecco Pesto and Victoria Pesto are two tasty alternatives.
The old adage, “You get what you pay for”, is as true for pesto as for anything else. Victoria Pesto is about two or three dollars more expensive than DeCecco’s brand. For example, an 8 ounce jar or DeCecco Pesto will cost you around $3.99, whereas Victoria Pesto will cost anywhere from $5.99-$7.99 or more.
In my opinion, Victoria Pesto is undeniably the superior product, although DeCecco has its uses. The key to really great pesto sauce is proportion and the quality of the ingredients. The basil has to be fresh, the parmesan cheese newly grated and the pine nuts toasted just right. Victoria Pesto comes as close to “grandma’s kitchen” as is possible for any store bought product. The consistency is smooth and you can really taste the subtle mingling of flavor between the olive oil, basil and pine nuts. Also, Victoria Pesto uses almonds in its mix, giving the sauce a slightly buttery flavor. In contrast, the ingredients in DeCecco’s Pesto are not as carefully blended and the result is a rougher texture and an almost overstated tanginess.
When it comes to pasta, Victoria Pesto is the hands down choice for me. The subtle and muted flavor of the pesto really complements pasta dishes quite nicely. Also, the silky texture of the sauce allows you to toss the pasta well. I’ve tried both DeCecco and Victoria Pesto on various types of pasta and I’ve found that Victoria Pesto really keeps the strands from sticking together. Victoria Pesto also serves as a nice complement to risotto. Again, the inherent blandness of the rice is the perfect backdrop for the understated taste of the Victoria brand.
Again, DeCecco has its uses in the kitchen. The brand works well in dishes where the pesto is an accent and not the featured flavor. For example, I’ve made a sandwich dressing with DeCecco Pesto, where the sharpness of the sauce was undercut by the creaminess of the mayonnaise. I’ve also used DeCecco Pesto to marinate chicken, fish and roasted vegetables. The brand also performs well when added to soups and broths. Again, since the product is a little strong, it needs to merge with other flavors rather than stand alone.
However, there are instances in which the sharp flavor of DeCecco Pesto can be an asset. I actually discovered this fact by accident when trying to whip up a quick appetizer for unexpected guests. Combining DeCecco Pesto with lentils or chickpeas can create an interesting contrast in flavors that is quite pleasing to the palate. The vibrant flavor of the product can brighten up the intrinsic earthiness of legumes.
When it comes to storage, DeCecco Pesto is a little more durable than the Victoria brand. Again, I stumbled across this fact by quite unexpectantly. When cleaning out my refrigerator, I discovered a jar of DeCecco Pesto that I had purchased about three weeks prior. The flavor was actually well preserved. In comparison, the flavor of Victoria Pesto tends to decline in freshness about after about one week in the refrigerator. My personal theory (which is completely unfounded or backed by scientific fact) is that the compactness of DeCecco Pesto allows it to keep its taste longer. I’ve also been able to freeze DeCecco Pesto for weeks at a time.
As a Sicilian, who actually did spend quite a lot of time in “grandma’s kitchen”, I am fairly particular about the ingredients that I use for cooking. I have been using Victoria products for a number of years and actually stumbled across the DeCecco brand fairly recently. If I had to choose between DeCecco Pesto and Victoria Pesto, I would probably choose the Victoria brand. Victoria Pesto has better quality and consistency than any other brand of pesto that I have used. However, in there was ever a pesto emergency, DeCecco Pesto would be a reasonably tolerable second choice.
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