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Traditional Recipe: Pesto Alla Genovese

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Pesto is a well known basil sauce originating in Genoa. This delicious sauce is traditionally served with various kinds of pasta such as trofie, lasagne and gnocchi or used to enrich dishes like vegetables soups and even pizzas! Countless variations already exist, but the best pesto is made with only basil and extra virgin olive oil from Liguria, because they are very aromatic and really make a difference when it comes to flavour. During the preparation method, we use a mortar because it is a slow and gentle process that doesn’t alter the quality and flavour of the ingredients.

Having said that, you can make a wonderful pesto using a blender and any of your local ingredients….so give it a go!!I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Today we will see how to prepare a delicious pesto using either a mortar or a blender…You choose!🙂

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Tips.

1. In the traditional recipe we only use well-aged Parmesan and Pecorino. Both these cheeses are quite salty, therefore it is better to use only a few crystals of salt in the recipe and taste the sauce when it’s ready; you can always add the salt later, if needed.

2. It is possible to dilute the pesto with water, in order to obtain a creamier sauce. I usually mix a couple of tablespoons of hot water with the sauce, just before mixing it with the pasta. Then stir vigorously with a spoon and add the pasta.

3. To preserve the pesto, put the sauce in a jar and cover with plenty of extra virgin olive oil, then seal well with a lid and put it in the fridge. The sauce will last up to 5 days, if properly preserved.

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Pesto alla Genovese.

36 leaves of fresh basil, washed and dried

1 clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of well-aged Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon of aged Pecorino cheese, grated (you can add more Parmesan if you don’t find the Pecorino)

1 tbsp of pine nuts

6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or more, if needed

sea salt crystals to taste

Method 1 (traditional method with a mortar)

1. Using a mortar, crush the garlic with only a couple of salt crystals.

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2. Remove the stems and gradually add all the basil leaves with a couple of salt crystals at a time. Move the pestle in circular motion and firmly crush all the leaves, adding more as you go along.

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3. Add the pine nuts and the grated cheeses, then continue mixing the ingredients with a gentile circular motion.

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4. Add the extra virgin olive oil and mix until you get a creamy pesto.

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Method 2 ((with an immersion blender or food processor)

This is definitely a quicker method, however, you have to be a little bit careful in order to avoid burning the basil leaves using the blender. You can easily avoid this, by adding some cold water (it has to be really cold) to prevent the blade from heating up and spoiling the basil.

1. Put all the ingredients in a tall container and add only 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Start blending and add 2 tablespoons of really cold water.

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2. Blend everything for a few minutes, then add the rest of the extra virgin olive oil and continue blending until you get a nice creamy pesto.

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See also the arugula pesto recipe.

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Pesto alla genovese.

1 spicchio d’aglio

36 foglie di basilico, lavate e asciugate

1 cucchiaio di pinoli

3 cucchiai di parmigiano ben stagionato e grattugiato

1 cucchiaio di pecorino sardo stagionato e grattugiato

Olio extra vergine d’oliva q. b.

sale grosso q. b.

Metodo 1 (con il mortaio)

Nota. Una volta aggiunto il basilico, il pestello va mosso in senso rotatorio per non rovinare le foglie. Il basilico deve mantenere il suo colore verde vivo.

1. Usando un mortaio, pestate l’aglio con due cristalli di sale grosso (useremo poco sale perché i formaggi utilizzati nella ricetta sono già salati).

2. Togliete i gambi e aggiungete gradualmente le foglie di basilico con qualche cristallo di sale. Muovete il pestello in senso rotatorio e pestate tutte le foglie.

3. Aggiungete i pinoli con i formaggi grattugiati e continuate ad amalgamare gli ingredienti con il pestello.

4. Aggiungete l’olio a filo, fino ad ottenere un battuto cremoso.

Metodo 2 ((con il frullatore ad immersione)

Per fare il pesto in modo pratico e veloce, si può utilizzare il frullatore ad immersione con un contenitore alto e stretto. Prima di tritare tutti gli ingredienti è importante aggiungere un paio di cucchiai d’acqua ghiacciata, per evitare che la lama del frullatore si scaldi e quindi rovini il basilico.

1. Mettete il basilico, i pinoli e i formaggi nel contenitore con 3 cucchiai d’olio extra vergine d’oliva e 2 cucchiai d’acqua ghiacciata.

2. Tritate per qualche minuto, poi aggiungete altro olio e tritate fino ad ottenere un pesto cremoso.

Nota.

Per ottenere un pesto ancora più cremoso, si può aggiungere un po’ d’acqua di cottura della pasta al condimento.

Vedi anche la ricetta per il pesto di rucola.

21 thoughts on “Traditional Recipe: Pesto Alla Genovese

    1. Buongiorno Simi! Ho voluto dedicare questo articolo alla mia città, che sta passando un momento difficile, per l’alluvione. Un buon pesto, fatto nella maniera più tradizionale, ci riporta un po’ ai ricordi più cari.

    1. Thank you so much!!!🙂 I wanted to dedicate this post to my hometown that is having some hard time right now with the damages due to an horrible flood…Pesto made in the mortar and pestle, in the traditional way, really bring me back to some dear memories…There isn’t anything more genoese than this!🙂

    1. Thank you! At first I found it a little bit difficult, because the basil if you don’t do the right things turn dark and loses its fresh flavour…But then I realized that you need to add just a few leaves at a time with one o two crystals of salt and then press with strength and rotate the pestle. That’s all there is to it!🙂 I got it right after the third time🙂 But it’s worth it because the flavour is different….Having said that, probably next time i’ll use a blender again! ;-))

  1. I love this pesto and it’s simple flavour. Nothing better than pasta with pesto. Do you also make the red one? I discovered it very recently and like it a lot. I will definitely try this recipe. Lovely pictures as always🙂

    1. Thank you so much!🙂 You mean the Sicilian pesto with tomatoes and almonds? There are some nice variations of that pesto as well So yummy!!…Have a wonderful weekend! X

    1. I know what you mean Angie! Here we use it on a lot of dishes! It so rooted in genoese traditions! We make a lovely minestrone with some pesto, to add more flavour to the vegetables soup…Yummy!!

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