Genoa is the birthplace of Pesto:
The Ligurian region is the birthplace of the Pesto sauce. More precisely, it was in Genoa, on the north Ligurian coast, that Pesto originated.
Basil, a main ingredient of pesto sauce, grows well in the Ligurian temperate climate. Travelling around Liguria, you’ll see that this sauce is used extensively in dishes.
Traditionally, families would use a mortar and a pestle (hence the name) to make pesto. The grinding action of the pestle brings out the flavours of the various ingredients as well as allowing for a smoother pesto texture.
If you’ve got a mortar and pestle at home, you may like to try making the pesto in the traditional way at least once so you can discern the difference in flavours. I personally don’t like spending a lot of time in the kitchen and using a blender is much easier even though there is a difference in quality.
Genovese Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil – don’t use cheap olive oil as it’ll affect the flavour of your pesto
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Wash the basil in cold water and pat dry
- Put basil, pine nuts, garlic and pinch of salt in the blender
- Drizzle olive oil in the blender and process until creamy
- Scoop blended pesto into a bowl or jar and stir in the grated cheeses
Note that ground basil oxidizes quickly turning into a dirty green color so use it immediately or store your pesto with a protective layer of olive oil.
Pesto is commonly used in pesto pasta dishes like Trofie al Pesto or Fettuccine di Pesto alla Genovese. It is quite a versatile sauce that can be served with potatoes and French beans as well. I like spooning it over a plate of sliced smoked mozzarella, avocado, tomatoes and basil leaves. Served with bread, this makes for a quick and delicious snack when friends drop in.