It is the Ligurian icon and one of Italian excellence, it is among the most famous and loved food in the world: is Genovese Pesto, the delicious cold sauce made of basilicum, the most appreciated herb of Italian cooking.

Genovese pesto, one of the most famous Italian cold sauces in the world

Genovese Pesto (and NOT “alla genovese”, be careful of what you eat!) is so tasty that you don’t have to wait a special event to eat it. Genovese Pesto is always eaten with different pasta shapes, from traditional Ligurian trofie or trenette to short pasta, gnocchi, lasagne, and a very precious ingredient in minestrone soup, as well known in Genoa.

Origins of Genovese Pesto

Even thought Liguria is on the sea, its cuisine is characterized by aromatic herb, because, during Middle Age in Maritime Republic of Genoa were used to cook, also because the spice market was prerogative of its enemy, Venice. Above of all herb, basil (botanical name ‘Ocimum basilicum”, from ancient Greek words òkimon = basil and basileus = king, “royal herb”), formerly used like ornamental and medical plant in the East, only Ligurians used it in cooking and they can boast the best basil in the world, DOP, cultivated in greenhouses in Prà district, in Genoa. 

According to some scholars, pesto would result from “aggiadda” (agliata), a 1200’s sauce made with crushed garlic, vinegar, olive oil and salt, used to preserve cooked food. But it is spoken about the real pesto in 1830, by the gourmet Giovanni Battista Ratto, who spoke about a recipe prepared with “a clove of garlic, basil, grated Dutch cheese and Parmigiano, blended with pine nuts and crushed in a mortar with a pinch of butter”. The original recipe has removed dutch cheese and butter, transforming the pesto as we still know it nowadays: fresh, tasty with its unique flavor. 

Genoa is also the scent and flavor of its cuisine. Like those of pesto, which we make in Milan or in Gallura, me and Dori, putting in so many nuts not to smells like mint : as it happens when you make pesto faraway from Genoa. Because only the basil of Genoa "does not smell".

Fabrizio De Andrè

How to prepare Genovese Pesto

Using a blender would be a blasphemy, because it causes the oxidatiIt’s time to answer to the most required question: how to make the genuine genovese pesto? Strictly with a marble mortar and a wooden pestle. on of basil leaves, getting a deep green and bitters sauce. In addition to basil - washed and dried very carefully - the original ingredients are extra virgin olive oil of Ligurian Riviera, lightly fruity, italian pine nuts from Pisa, Tuscany (the best ones), Parmigiano Reggiano (over 30 months aged), Fiore Sardo Pecorino Cheese (over 10 months aged), Vessalico (Imperia) garlic and coarse sea salt. After the pesto is done, it is mixed with a few pasta cooking water, rich of starch, that will get your sauce creamy and fragrant.

Post Scriptum: if you want to bring pesto as a souvenir from Genoa, at Genoa airport you can carry even 500gr of pesto jar for hand luggage: it takes just the sticker “Il pesto è buono”, available at ticket office for only 0,50 €, donated to charity by Flying Angels Onlus.

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