How to Make Pesto alla Genovese
Pesto seems to be everywhere now, but did you know it originates from Genoa in Italy? It is extremely easy to make with a handful of ingredients and here I’m going to show you how to make Pesto alla Genovese.
I think cooking should be simple and not complicated, that way it is enjoyable and not a chore. I normally just share with you travel stories and tips, but as I have spent more time at home and always had a passion for cooking I thought it was time to venture out and start sharing simple Italian recipes.
As you know I’m not Italian, I’m British, but I live in Genoa and I am married to a very critical Italian man! So it has to taste good otherwise I’m told straight away! Anyway lets move on from married life…
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Why make pesto when you can buy it off the shelf?
I live in Genoa, located in the northern region of Italy and I can buy some of the best pesto in the world, but nothing tastes like homemade. I love to cook and I like convenience, but making it yourself is better for you and you can make up a big batch.
It is easy to keep in the fridge once made, just pour a layer of olive oil in the jar and top it up when you use some. Add to pasta, bread, a soup or drizzle over a dish when needed. The pesto will last around a week in the fridge if stored in a mason jar.
History of Pesto
This Genovese dish dates back to the Roman times and the Italian word ‘pestare’ (in Genovese dialect ‘pestâ‘) that means to pound or crush. Pounding/crushing the ingredients was the the original method of preparing pesto in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. Hence the word ‘pesto’.
Pesto is high in vitamin C and was used on board ships back in the day to prevent scurvy. It was an easier alternative to keeping fruits and vegetables, as there was no refrigeration back then. The olive oil kept it fresh for long voyages as it could be kept it in a barrel.
Pesto is taken very seriously and every year there is a pesto championship held in Genoa. It is open to professional and amateur cooks from any country in the world. But you have to use the ingredients and equipment provided. The list is narrowed down to 10 finalists and the judges pick a winner.
How to make Pesto alla Genovese
There are many ways of making pesto, and there are hundreds of recipes to follow, below is how I make my version. The main points are to use fresh Genovese basil leaves, fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese), fresh garlic, pine nuts, a little salt and a good extra virgin olive oil. You can use a pestle and mortar, but a food processor or blender will do (use the slowest setting). Like I said above, I am not Italian, so don’t quote me! My Italian husband is from Genoa and he prefers mine to any fresh shop bought pesto.
Pesto alla Genovese Recipe
- 2 cups/40g Fresh basil leaves
- 3 Garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1/2 cup/125ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup/60g Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese), grated
- 1/3 cup/50g Pine Nuts
- Salt to taste
- Put the pine nuts and basil leaves in a food processor and pulse on the slowest setting until they bind together.
- Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and minced garlic cloves and pulse a little more.
- If the pesto mix has gone up the sides of the food processor use a rubber spatula to push down.
- Pour slowly in the extra virgin olive oil, while the food processor is running.
- Scrape the side of the food processor with the spatula and mix the sauce together.
- Then add a little salt to taste and mix in.
- Either use straight away or store for later.
- If storing for later transfer into a mason jar or old clean jam jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil to preserve it and secure the lid tightly. Every time you take a spoonful add a little more olive oil. The olive oil will become solid in the fridge once cold, but will return to liquid at room temperature.
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