Pesto alla Genovese


We are in September, soon the weather will get worse, and in the garden there is still a lot of basil….what to do with it? An original Pesto, of course 🙂

What is the Pesto? The word “pesto” comes from the word “pestare“, which is the movement with the traditional tool (called “pestello“) to make pesto.

So let’s say soon that to obtain the best result in terms of color and consistence/texture, we must use the original tools (and good quality ingredients, as always) 🙂 I had the opportunity to go in Liguria region and try the pesto made in the traditional way, and yes, it’s different.

But though I’m promising to myself since a while to buy the original tool, unfortunately I don’t have it yet 😀 so at the moment I’m doing it with the food processor.
The problem with the food processor/mixer/blender is that the blades heat the basil, which in this way loses the typical beautiful bright and vivid green color of the pesto made in the traditional way, becoming oxidized (though the taste doesn’t change very much), but we can try to avoid oxidation as much as possible by putting the mixer bowl and the blades into the freezer, and by using the food processor/mixer with few and very short impulses.

The mixer usually makes it also too much creamy, instead it should be more “grainy”, so there is a problem more with the texture than with the final taste. But we can avoid that unpleasant consistence/texture by adding the extra virgin olive oil just in the end, mixing it manually to the pesto.
Another problem is with the pine nuts: lately they became quite expensive, so more people started to use for example walnuts instead of them: I agree that also with walnuts is quite good, I also do it sometimes (but now my wife became suddenly allergic to walnuts, so I will have to do it only with pine nuts 😀 ), but don’t say to any Italian from Liguria region (where the pesto comes from) that “with walnuts the result is almost the same”, they could start a fight 😀 and honestly, with pine nuts it tastes better, walnuts have a more overwhelming taste.

Another thing to consider, to find Italian/European pine nuts it’s not always easy lately, it’s easier to find the Chinese and Pakistani pine nuts which are different, with different taste: the Chinese ones are not oily at all and usually more bitter, and they are smaller, the Pakistani have a more sugary taste and they are more oily, and they have a longer shape. Both they have a yellow-ochre color and they are a bit cheaper than the Italian/European pine nuts, but if you have to do it, since we don’t need 1 kg but just some grams, the difference is not so big, so I suggest to choose the original ones in the case you decided to make the original pesto with pine nuts and not with walnuts. The European pine nuts are oily but not too much, and they have nice but gentle notes of pine resin, and they have an ivory white color. You recognize them.

Cheese: already in very old recipes there are mixtures of Parmigiano Reggiano and other cheese (even dutch Gouda in a source of early XIX century, and it’s not strange because of the historical commercial relationships of Genoa), but nowadays most of the trustworthy sources agree on the use of Parmigiano and Pecorino (usually the “Fiore Sardo”, also because the past relationships between Genoa and Sardinia). But if you prefer to use just Parmigiano Reggiano that’s also fine.

Garlic: going a lot back in time much more garlic was used. For centuries this ingredient was very important in the nutrition of the local people in Liguria, especially for the ones who lived by the sea. The sailors ate a lot of garlic since they believed it could protect from illnesses during their long travels in bad conditions. But nowadays no one use so much garlic, also because it can endanger social relationships 😀

So, let’s see the procedure.

If you want to do it with the original tool, I suggest to watch this video to see in which order you have to add the ingredients: click HERE 🙂

If instead you are going to use the food processor, read the following instructions 🙂


INGREDIENTS (for about 10 portions of pasta):

  • 100 g of fresh basil (to prefer the smaller leaves)
  • 40 g of Italian/European pine nuts
  • 70 g of grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I used a 24 months aged Parmigiano, I suggest to choose at least a 20 months, if you can find it)
  • 30 g of grated Pecorino (in Liguria it’s usually used the “Fiore Sardo“, a Pecorino from Sardinia region)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6/7 g of rock coarse salt (or fine salt if you use a blender)
  • 160-180 ml of extra virgin olive oil (originally it’s used to say to choose a “gentle” and “sweet” oil, for example the ones made in Liguria region or in Lombardy lakes areas, but that’s really hard to pretend to find outside Italy, so choose just a good one 🙂 it will be good in any case!)
  1. First of all, as I said before, put the processor’s bowl and the blades in the freezer, half an hour should be enough. This will help to avoid as much as possible the oxidation of the basil.
  2. Then prepare the grated Parmigiano and Pecorino, and go to pick up the leaves of basil. If you have a lot of basil, then try to select the small/medium size leaves. Otherwise use what you have 🙂 And try to choose the green leaves, if they begin to turn into a brownish color in some points, usually on the bottom part, avoid those leaves, if you want your pesto to be green, you need only green leaves 🙂 Oops, there was a guest in the garden, when I went to pick up the basil 😀bbb_2132
  3. Now start to put in the food processor the pine nuts and the garlic, and mix them. We will use only the impulse mode, it will help to reduce the blades from getting too much warm.
  4. Then add all the basil leaves and the salt, and keep mixing with the impulses, until everything is reduced in small pieces, but still with a grainy consistence (at least as much as possible by using the food processor/mixer).
  5. Now put everything in a metallic or ceramic bowl, and add gradually the extra virgin olive oil, and mix well with a spoon or a spatula, until all the oil is well absorbed into the pesto.
  6. Your pesto is ready 🙂

With pesto we can do many things, the best is for sure to make a pasta: the tradition wants that we use “trofie“,”trenette” or “testaroli“, but I think that “eliche” (as I used in this case) or “fusilli” fit very well with it too. Also with “gnocchi” it can be good.

If you want to use it with pasta, just boil the pasta into salted water, and then after you have drained the pasta just add it to the pesto, pesto that must be at room temperature…we took care not to oxidize the basil while making it, so there is no logic to warm it up in a pan, right? 🙂 if you want, add an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, that’s never a problem 😀

Typical is also Trenette with pesto, boiled potatoes and boiled green beans.

But you can use a small spoon of pesto also to add extra flavor to your soups, for example in a nice Minestrone.

You can preserve it in the freezer, I usually put the pesto into ice cubes molds, and then when it’s harder I put the cubes into freezer bags/containers. They can stay in the freezer some months with no problems. It’s not the same as with a fresh pesto, but for the winter it’s also good, trust me 😉

PS: luckily the oil is made by my father and I don’t pay it 🙂 and the basil was in the garden, but let’s see how much costs this recipe, if you have to buy all the ingredients, just for curiosity 🙂

I counted about 7-8 Euros, but I don’t know how much would cost the basil.

We said that this recipe is enough for about 10 portions, so it’s 0,70/0,80 Euro per portion, about…all in all, I think it’s still definitely a fair price, considering also that we used only good quality ingredients 🙂




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