Imagine a land suspended between the sea and the mountains, where green and blue mingle together and where the landscape is dotted with colorful houses, vertical vineyards, and olive trees. This is Liguria, where today we’ll take your senses for a taste of traditional Italian cuisine: Liguria’s popular Pesto Genovese.
Pesto sauce, which is a mix of basil, garlic, and pine nuts, originated in the Ligurian city of Genova. The word pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare, which means “to crush”. In fact, according to traditions, the ingredients are crushed in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. It can be hard work, but don’t worry— you can always use a blender if you’re short on time and are having friends for dinner.
Ready? Let’s start!
Ingredients for 500 g of Pasta
- 50 g of basil leaves [2 oz] (purists would suggest basil from Pra’, that is a basil with small leaves)
- 2 garlic cloves (the tradition says garlic from Vessalico, that is a quality with a milder taste)
- 15 g of pine nuts [3/4 oz]
- 70 g of Parmesan cheese, grated [2 ¾ oz]
- 30 g of Pecorino cheese, grated [1 oz]
- 100 ml [3 1/4 fl oz] of extra virgin olive oil (better the one from Liguria, milder than the one from Tuscany or Southern Italy]
- A pinch of salt
- If you use a blender, leave it in the fridge before making Pesto. Otherwise, when the blades warm up, the basil leaves become dark. Someone adds a very small piece of ice to the mix.
- Gently rinse the basil leaves and wait until they are dry before starting.
- Put in the blender (or in the mortar) in the following order the garlic cloves, the pine nuts, the basil leaves and the pinch of salt. In case you use the blender, it is easy, press on. In case you use the mortar, first crush with the pestle the mix, being careful that the garlic remains under the basil leaves. Then, when you think the garlic and the pine nuts are crushed enough, start squeezing the mix against the mortar walls using the pestle and with a circular movement.
- When you’ve reached the desired density for your pesto, add the Parmesan, the Pecorino cheese, the extra virgin olive oil and stir.
Pesto is perfect with pasta, especially trofie, a traditional pasta from Liguria. It is very important that you do not warm up pesto when you add it to the pasta. When the pasta is ready, simply strain it, put it into a big mixing bowl, add Pesto and mix.
Want to learn making pesto from the locals? Join LocalWonders Travel for your once-in-a-lifetime Italy escape. We design small group tours to Italy offering top quality and authentic experiences. The Wonders of Northern Italy tour stops in Liguria, where you can explore Cinque Terre and learn how to make the traditional pesto.