Pesto is a cold basil sauce, ideal with fresh handmade pasta and unconventional yummy tapas! Plus, it was also Frank Sinatra’s favorite 😉
I was born and grow up in the Cinque Terre area, then I left to live in Paris and when I came back, a few years ago, I re-discovered my region, its traditions and above all its food and wine. Pesto is, of course, my favorite!
I can eat it every day without ever getting tired of it. I learned to prepare it the traditional way during a happy summer afternoon on my grandma’s balcony, overlooking Vernazza Main Street… sweet memory and cool knowledge.
I love to share the original pesto recipe and cool advice to enjoy it with foreign friends fully, and I’ll be more than happy to share it with you too!
My happy hour with quick pesto cooking class
Starting with this summer, I’m hosting a typical and yummy happy hour moment with quick Genoese pesto cooking classes three times per week, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, in the colorful garden of my lovely Oasi Hotel in Levanto (in case of bad weather, we can move into the veranda).
The experience lasts more or less one hour and costs 25€ per person, including all the ingredients, the focaccia, other yummy snacks, and Cinque Terre wine. You can book by sending me an email or calling the Oasi (+39 0187 807356).
You’ll learn how to prepare it following the original recipe while sipping a glass of Cinque Terre wine, each one at his/her table with his/her own typical marble mortar and the needed ingredients.
Once the sauce is done, we’ll taste it on local focaccia toasts and, if you don’t get to empty your mortar, you’ll even get a food box to take your own pesto home!
During the experience, I’ll tell you everything about this basil sauce, its ingredients, but also its conservation and the ideal pasta and recipes to go with. Once back home, you’ll be able to impress your family and friends with a typically Italian Riviera meal!
In case you can’t join this special happy hour, you can follow this recipe.
The Ligurian pesto recipe
Tradition wants it to be prepared by mashing all the ingredients in a precise order in a white Carrara marble mortar using a wooden pestle. Obviously, today many people prefer the blender to speed things up … the result is still good. Still, the appliance’s speed heats the sauce and tends to oxidize the basil leaves, which has to be small and tender and not that huge lettuce-like I sometimes see around – we are pickier. We love to grumble -, but to obviate these drawbacks, you can blend a few seconds at a time, preferably using plastic blades.
- 2 bouquets of fresh basil (if you are in Italy, ask for the Prà one)
- garlic – I do put two cloves
- 20 grams of pine nuts
- 100 grams of Parmesan cheese
you will also need:
- 1 pinch of coarse sea salt
- olive oil, more or less 100 ml
After having washed and left to dry the basil leaves, peel the garlic and start to pound it in a mortar along with the pine nuts and salt.
Then add the basil, and as soon as it begins to release its emerald green liquid add the grated parmesan and continue to pound in a circular motion till obtaining a smooth cream.
At this point, add the olive oil.
I love the pesto a bit more delicate, and for this reason, I only use Parmesan cheese, but for a bit stronger taste, just reduce the dose and add the same amount of pecorino cheese.
Same thing for garlic. By changing the amount, you can get a flavor that satisfies your taste.
The pesto can flavor many different types of pasta. Personally, I love it with trofie, potato gnocchi, lasagne, trenette (with potatoes and green beans or even just potatoes), and it is great in minestrone alla Genovese (that I actually prefer the day after, warmed up in a pan).
Now comes the moment of the Ligurian outburst 😉 : pesto should NOT be heated and should NEVER be eaten with hard pasta (penne, fusilli, etc.) NOR stuffed pasta like ravioli!!!
Once ready, you can store it in the refrigerator for two to three days covering it with a thin layer of olive oil. You can also freeze it, but in this case, do not add any olive oil layer nor cheese.
Did you know that there is also a World Championship of Genovese Pesto done with a mortar?
If you ever visit Genoa, you have to taste Roberto Panizza’s Genoese pesto at the Il Genovese restaurant downtown!