Lisa Pellegrino makes pesto sustainable

Photo credit: Courtesy PestoGrino
PESTO MASTER: Lisa Pellegrino sells her homemade pestos at the Decatur Farmers Market.

Sustainability has become such a buzzword that you may feel inclined to take a shot every time a brand touts it. But local craft pesto company PestoGrino practices what it preaches, thanks to owner and badass entrepreneur Lisa Pellegrino.

While attending Pinchot University's MBA program with a focus on sustainable systems, Pellegrino had her "aha!" moment. She was sitting in a class called "Creativity and Innovation" when it happened. "I think it's a real shame the way that our inner artist gets stamped out of us at such an early age," she says. "But in this class I decided I would reclaim my inner artist, and that cooking is a wonderful medium for creative expression. I had also realized that I take deep fulfillment out of working with my hands, and over the years had been unknowingly working on an awesome pesto recipe." This epiphany led her to hop on the entrepreneurship track at school and PestoGrino was on its way.

Pellegrino bills herself as a "zero waste junkie" and infuses that ethos into PestoGrino. Her pestos are vegan and organic, and she works with local farms like East Atlanta's Ecosystem Farm and the Wylde Center in Decatur. Pellegrino doesn't stop at traditional basil pesto, though; she uses scraps that are usually tossed aside like carrot tops and beet greens to create all kinds of innovative variations. Upcycling ingredients is a crucial part of her process. "For surface and very deep reasons, trash and garbage has just been my fascination and frustration," she says. "To live in a world where so many go without, I see waste as the smoking gun of injustice and inequality."

She walks the walk in her day-to-day life, too. At least once a week, she goes car-free and relishes trying to figure out how to get around town sans gas, whether it's by bike or scooter (yes, as in a Razor scooter). Almost all of her clothes are secondhand, and the food she eats and makes is as local and seasonal as possible. For Pellegrino, it's important to consider the bigger picture. "I'm really challenged by those that think personal choices don't matter in terms of sustainability or social change, for that matter. I've learned to see through the bullshit of false dichotomies. Very rarely is the solution either A or B. With the state of the world, we need all hands on deck."

Bright and filled with boundless energy, Pellegrino has doubled the number of markets where she sells her product, and now hawks not just the original three but 10 different pesto varieties. She's always seeking inspiration, and after watching the show "Scraps" with chef Joel Gamoran, she began planning to add a line of salad dressing to her brand, made with herb stem vinaigrettes.

One day she hopes to open a Willy Wonka-style pesto factory, but for now you can find her green delights at farmers markets around town. Check out her Facebook page for a full list.

PestoZERO WASTE JUNKIE: Lisa Pellegrino makes her pesto from upcycled ingredients like carrot tops and beet greens.Courtesy PestoGrino

Try Lisa Pellegrino's signature pesto sandwich for a tasty late-summer treat.

PestoGrino breakfast sammie

Serves: 1


2 pieces sourdough bread

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons PestoGrino pesto

1 egg

2 tomato slices (optional)

Sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (optional)


Spread butter and pesto on the bread slices. Fry the egg in a medium-high pan and place on pesto side of the bread. Add tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Return sandwich to pan and cook for 60 seconds on either side.

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