Pesto Alla Genovese

Months ago, my husband planted basil from seeds bought in Liguria. Weeks past before tiny green spouts sprung up in the planter box, many of them clustered in the same few spots. When the baby basil leaves appeared strong enough, my husband plucked them individually and transplanted them into small canisters. A few died but most of them survived and are now thriving in a little ‘terranium’ in our backyard.

For many people, this is probably a lot of hard work for little reason. You can buy Pesto in jars and fresh basil at the local markets. However, my husband is an absolute purist when it comes to pesto, a sauce that has its birthplace in Genoa, the city where he grew up.  

In the traditional Ligurian recipe, Pesto is made from the best basil (possibly grown in the town of Pra’), the plants are uprooted when the leaves are still small and delicate, the extra virgin olive oil is produced locally, and every ingredient is of the highest quality. Tip: If you see sunflower oil on any jarred pesto, run the other way!

This past weekend, we finally reaped the rewards of his labor with “Pesto alla Genovese” made with Genovese basil grown from seed, extra virgin olive oil, Pecorino, Parmigiano, garlic and some pine nuts and actually grounded with a wooden pestle in a marble mortar.  (Per Wikipedia: A mortar and pestle is a tool used to crush, grind, and mix substances. The pestle is a heavy bat shaped stick whose end is used for pounding and grinding, and the mortar is a bowl, typically made of hard wood, marble, clay, or stone).

Traditionally the pesto is accompanied by Trofie or Trenette, Ligurian traditional fresh pasta, with green beans and boiled potatoes.

Since this was a rather last minute decision, we made do with Barilla fettucine.  We hadn’t had such good pesto since our last trip to Italy!


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