I will admit it. I do not like to spend hours in the kitchen. That’s way I am a huge fan of Italian food. Few ingredients. Short preparation times. Tasting delicious. Which brings to mind one of my all-time favourite Italian dishes: A simple pasta with Pesto alla Genovese.
Put simply, Pesto alla Genovese is a type of green sauce, and perhaps the most popular around the world. It’s origins are likely going back to ancient Rome, where a mix of herbs, garlic, oil, vinegar, and soft cheese called Moretum was mashed together to a porridge-like sauce. Occasionally, nuts were added to the mix as well.
Pesto alla Genovese how we know it today was made for the first time around the end of the 19th century, and its recipe first appeared in the famous cookbook written by brothers Ratto in 1865, Cucina Genovese.
The recipe has hardly changed over time and requires seven ingredients: fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, coarse salt and parmesan and pecorino cheeses.
By the way, Pesto alla Genovese is not the only one of a large range of pesto. Indeed, the name is derived from the Italian verb pestare, which means smashing or crushing something. As such, you will find different pesto in Italy, including for example Pesto Rosso from Sicily, based on tomatoes and almonds. In addition, variations of pesto include varieties with ingredients originating outside of Italy such as Mexican-inspired pesto with cilandro and pepito peppers.
But today we are talking about the most popular of all pesto: the authentic Pesto alla Genovese.
A true Pesto alla Genovese requires more than just assembling the above-mentioned ingredients and blending them together. Pesto alla Genovese is only allowed to be sold as Pesto alla Genovese when it is made with locally sourced products. For example, only basil Genovese D.O.P. can be used, the olive oil used must be cold pressed olive oil from Liguria, the garlic should come from Vessalico, a small town located in the Province of Imperia.
In addition, only when made with a mortar and a wooden pestle to crush the ingredients Consortium of Pesto Genovese will give the permission the product can be officially called Pesto alla Genovese on the label.
Thankfully, these rules only apply when you want to buy (or sell) authentic Pesto alla Genovese. You can still make your own Pesto alla Genovese at home, though. All you need is the requested ingredients – independently from where they come – and about 15 minutes of your time.
Yes, you read this correctly. This delicious herb mixture which is the perfect condiment for a huge range of dishes, will be ready in just about 15 minutes.
What food goes best with Pesto alla Genovese
Pasta. Of course, pasta. All sorts of pasta will be perfect with Pesto alla Genovese.
Think of the traditional Trofie al Pesto, a type of pasta served with pesto, or a simple but delicious plate of spaghetti with Pesto alla Genovese.
But anyway, serving Pesto alla Genovese over pasta is only one possibility. Beyond pasta, pesto is often added to soups, salads, gnocchi, boiled potatoes or served as a side for fish, beef roast, herb pork roast and turkey.
It is also great on pizza.
Finally, chicken with pesto might be popular in some locations too but is not a dish that you will ever find in Italy. That said, as usual it is your taste that counts, so go ahead and have a try.
Just remember, never heat your pesto. Always add on top of your finished dish or lightly combine into your cooked pasta, etc.
How to preserve Pesto alla Genovese
Pesto alla Genovese is at its best when used fresh.
That said, you can store it in the fridge for up to a month. Just make sure to add to a jar and cover the mixture with olive oil and close of with a lid.
Recipe: Pesto alla Genovese
50 g fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 pinch of coarse salt
120 olive oil
70 g Parmigiano cheese
30 g Pecorino cheese
Add the pine nuts, garlic cloves, basil, a pinch of salt and 2-3 tablespoons to a food processor and blend until obtaining a smooth puree.
If you do not have a food processor, you can also use a handheld blender. This will take a bit longer and you will likely end up with a slightly coarser mixture, but this will not make a difference in the final taste.
If you are quite ambitious, you could also make your pesto the original way and use a mortar and pestle, though in this case you need to plan more time than 15 minutes preparation time.
Add the remaining half of the olive oil and blend together with the food processor or handheld blender for another about 30 seconds.
Stir in the remaining olive oil, then stir in the two freshly grated cheeses.
Use directly or transfer to a jar, completely cover it with olive oil and seal with a lid.