Pesto Genovese

Bright green color, intense aroma, enveloping texture, unmistakable flavor. We are talking about pesto, one of the prides of Genoa and Liguria, the north-western Italian region where it originates. Pesto is one of the most famous sauces in the world, and we can only confirm this rightful notoriety.

True and authentic pesto is Genoese, said the Consorzio del Pesto Genovese, urging people to pay close attention to the wording found on the market and to consider only Genoese pesto as traditional, because often ingredients are added to the recipe or substituted for those that are not part of the original recipe. Although the authentic recipe has been handed down since the 19th century, pesto as we know it today is derived from a garlicsauce that has been prepared since the Middle Ages.

The original pesto recipe only includes these “magnificent” seven ingredients: Genoese basil, Parmigiano Reggiano (a variant with Grana Padano is also accepted), Sardinian Pecorino fiore, extra virgin olive oil (preferably Ligurian), garlic, pine nuts (some regional variants use walnuts instead), coarse salt. These ingredients are pounded together to form the sauce.

The secret to the perfect pesto? Use a marble mortar and a wooden pestle. The ingredients must be added little by little and the prolonged rotary motion of the pestle allows the essential oils of the basil to come out for the best results. The ingredients are processed at room temperature and in the shortest possible time to release fully all their aromas. Today, for convenience and practicality, a blender is used, but care must be taken as using blades may cause the basil leaves to lose their green color and thus compromise the result…

Once prepared, pesto is perfect for seasoning a dish of trofie or trenette, types of pasta always belonging to the Ligurian tradition. Since it is a cold sauce, i.e., prepared with raw ingredients, it should not be heated but diluted with a little cooking water from the pasta: in this way it will form that typical creaminess of pesto that envelops the palate between one forkful and the next.

Finally, a curiosity: since 2007, the Pesto World Championship has been held in Genoa, which every year decrees the champion and awards the best pesto among 100 competitors with a wooden pestle with a gold-banded handle, worth around 2000 euros.

After revealing the secrets of the perfect Genoese pesto, we are ready toget to work preparing it, and you?

Written by
Rita Pistore