It is a cupboard staple whose success lies in its simple recipe of basic ingredients – basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic, all blended with olive oil.
But shoppers may be shocked to discover that many supermarket pestos in fact contain an array of unexpected ingredients including bamboo and potatoes.
A study by consumer group Which? found substitute and often cheaper ingredients in jars of pesto, such as sunflower oil instead of olive oil, and cashew nuts instead of pine nuts.
Marks and Spencer’s standard jar, the most expensive at £2.10, contained carrot fibres.
All of the supermarkets’ premium pestos were labelled “alla Genovese”, relating to the sauce’s origins in Genoa. All of them contained between 38 per cent and 50 per cent basil, as well as extra-virgin olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts.
However, even these contained some surprising extras, with Morrisons (£1.95), Sainsbury’s (£1.50) and Tesco (£2) all adding vegetable or bamboo fibres as thickeners and sugar, and Morrisons also listed water as an ingredient.
The products with the most authentic and traditional ingredients were Asda Extra Special Genovese Basil Pesto (£1.39) and Waitrose 1 Pesto alla Genovese (£2.70).
The watchdog said its investigation showed that a higher price did not necessarily mean that the product would be free of cheaper and possibly unwanted ingredients and urged shoppers to check the labelling.
It comes after a salt campaign group warned that feeding children pesto pasta could be worse for their health than letting them eat McDonald’s hamburgers.
The amount of salt in pesto is rising with the average serving now containing 1.5g of salt, research found, overtaking McDonalds hamburgers which contain 1.2g.
This is equivalent to half of a 4 to 6 year-old child’s 3g daily salt allowance according to the NHS. In 2009 the average pesto serving contained 1.17g of salt.
Which? nutrition experts reviewed the contents twelve different 190g jars of pesto from supermarkets Asda, Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
All of the standard pestos, apart from Waitrose’s £1.35 version, used thickeners such as potato flakes, nut flour, vegetable or even bamboo fibres.
Standard pesto from Sainsbury’s and Tesco, both £1, and the Co-op (£1.19) also contained sugar, and the Co-op, Morrisons (£1) and Tesco listed water as an ingredient.
Which? director of research Nikki Stopford said: “Pesto has become a staple food in the UK but our research shows that many shoppers may be getting more than they bargain for when it comes to the pesto they are buying – and not necessarily in a good way.
“Our advice is not to assume that all pesto contains the same traditional ingredients. Check the ingredients list if authenticity is important to you, or if you are trying to avoid certain contents, such as added sugar.”
An M&S spokesman said: “The carrot fibre in our pesto ensures that the oil and basil doesn’t separate, naturally improving its shelf life and helping it last longer for customers.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/14/potato-bamboo-carrot-fibre-hidden-ingredients-supermarket-pesto/