Pesto, Pistou, and Chimichurri Sauces

Green sauces are my favorite of mine as they add freshness and texture to almost any dish. For years I have been making and serving a chimichurri sauce that my amazing chef friend, Ana Claudia Tapioca, taught me. I add chimichurri to my menu when serving empanadas, beef, pork or chicken. My dinner guests always compliment the sauce and it is really simple to make.

The idea for writing this article came from another talented chef friend, Preeti Waas. I was confiding in her that I was running out of ideas for our March issue. I already had many articles talking about Irish traditions and Irish food, however, not everyone celebrates Saint Patricks Day or happens to be Irish. I wanted to stay true to the magazine’s March theme but also wanted to include some not-so-Irish food articles. Preeti thought about it for a quick second and suggested ,why not make these three green sauces and talk about their differences. Did I mention she is brilliant?

Pesto verses Chimichurri verses Pistou

  • Pesto, originating from Italy, combines fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to create a vibrant and aromatic sauce.
  • Chimichurri, hailing from Argentina, features a blend of parsley, garlic, vinegar, and spices, typically with the addition of red pepper flakes for a slight kick.
  • Pistou, a traditional French sauce, showcases the simplicity of basil, garlic, and olive oil, often without nuts or cheese.

While all three sauces share a common thread of herbal freshness, they offer unique flavor profiles that can elevate various dishes, from pasta and grilled meats for pesto and chimichurri, to soups and stews for pistou.

The Pistou

I made all three sauces, documented the process and (as always) subjected my husband to the taste test. I had never tasted Pistou, a French sauce that is typically served on top of a hearty vegetable stew. I was not sure I would like this sauce. WOW, was I wrong?

The Pistou is made using Gouda cheese and tomato along with fresh basil. While I had not made a stew on the day I documented this, I did have a loaf of crusty french bread.

I drizzled olive oil on some sliced bread popped in the oven for 4 minutes and then added the Pistou sauce. Placed it back in the oven for 4 more minutes and it turned out delicious. I cannot wait to make a grilled cheese sandwich this same way! I also could imagine this sauce spooned onto the top of a bowl of homemade tomato soup, Yum!

Get the Pistou Recipe

The Pesto

Next up was the Pesto. This traditional sauce is made also from basil. The Italians add pine nuts and garlic along with parmesan and or romano cheese. I did not have pine nuts on hand so I substituted walnuts, this worked out just as well.

Walnuts are easy to find in the area where I live and are much less expensive. It did not compromise the flavor of the Pesto and I may have preferred it, I will have to compare them side by side one day to confirm for you. Pesto can be served over pasta, chicken and even on pizza. As you may have guessed, I used that same toasted, crusty French bread as a vessel for this nutty, green sauce. It was also scrumptious.

Get the Pesto Recipe

The Chimichurri

Finally, the third green sauce was Chimichurri. Just as much fun to say as it is to eat. I do use Ana’s recipe as a guide but I do not stick to any one recipe. I am an out of the box cook who likes to experiment with flavors, amounts, technique, and truth be told I rarely measure.

I find that having to write the recipes down is one of the most difficult parts of documenting my cooking. I learned that by filming myself I can accurately count the measurements I made. I then can utilize the videos elsewhere. Filming yourself doing anything comes with its own set of challenges and I will confide that sometimes I have more bloopers that get edited out than actual usable content.

Get the Chimichurri Recipe

What makes the Chimichurri green and fresh is cilantro, basil, and garlic. Add into this some acid from the lemon, lime and or red vinegar and some olive oil. Sometimes I add a little red onion, other times I leave it out depending on what I am planning to serve it with. Red onion with beef adds to the dish, but I do not find with pork that I need the onion.

Today I planned to serve the sauce with an air fried pork chop so the red onion was omitted. I do not recommend serving the Chimichurri on top of the crostini, it does not translate as well as the Pistou and Pesto. With the pork chop though it added a nice freshness, acidity, and garlic flavor that accompanied it well and really made the meat sing.

Whether you are planning to celebrate March with the Irish or you want to add a bit of brightness to a meal. you can enjoy these flavors all year long. These easy to prepare sauces will help bring out the best in most anything you plan to serve.