Pesto Alla Genovese – Recipe

It has been quite a while since I’ve last written anything here, but there was a lot going on since the Christmas holidays and sadly, one of the main catalysts behind this blog has passed away 41 days ago. He was always whipping my ass to write consistently to you all and not to forget that I am a blogger and not just an Instagrammer. May your soul rest in peace; best friend brother and mentor.

On a brighter note, I am very excited to bring you this authentic Pesto recipe. I have done some research and discovered some interesting facts about this very special pasta sauce.

The word “pesto” in Italian literally means “pounded” or “crushed”. Ironically enough, most original recipes will instruct you not to actually pound your Pesto ingredients but rather use a circular grinding motion to crush, blend and emulsify them together. While most chefs and home cooks might use an electric food processor or blender to produce Pesto today, I now know that anything prepared with a high-speed, rotating blade is technically not Pesto! So I decided to get a marble mortar and pestle and see if there’s any benefit or difference in doing it the traditional way.

In most of the resources I have uncovered along my research, there were no exact measurements for the ingredients to a classic Genoan Pesto. There’s plenty of wiggle room for the quantities of ingredients that you put in your Pesto, but I also noticed that there are a couple of ingredients that need to respect a certain ratio in accordance to one another. Let me tell you what you can and can’t play around with 🙂

  • You will need:
    • 150g fresh Italian basil, pluck out the leaves and discard the stems (I used a hybrid Egyptian basil for this recipe but it was pretty good, too)
    • 1-2 cloves of garlic
    • 1 Tbsp coarse salt
    • 1 Tbsp pine nuts (use 4 walnuts instead, if you are on a budget)
    • 3-5 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
    • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Method:
    1. First you will add the garlic and salt to your mortar and crush and grind them together until you start to form a paste.
    2. Then add the pine nuts and continue to grind in a circular motion until all of the pine nuts are more or less smooth.
    3. Then add the basil leaves one small portion at a time and continue to crush against the mortar walls until all of the leaves are fully combined into the mix.
    4. Add the grated parmesan cheese and work it into the pesto.
    5. Lastly, add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time and stir vigorously to emulsify the oil into the blend. Ideally you would very slowly stream the oil in, while you are stirring to get a rich and homogeneous result. Be careful with this step as you need to add just the right amount of oil. If you feel that your pesto only needs 2.5 Tbsp of oil then don’t use the whole quantity. Too much oil will give you a runny sauce that does not bind to your pasta.

Your Pesto will hold refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week, but I highly recommend that you consume it fresh. This stuff is best enjoyed on some freshly cooked pasta and please don’t ever heat up your Pesto on the stove with the pasta. This will make it lose its vibrant green color and fresh aroma.

Now for some do’s and don’t’s when measuring the ingredients for the pesto.. The ratio of basil to salt to oil is probably the most critical. You can be a bit more forgiving with the garlic and the pine nuts according to your taste. The parmesan cheese you can also add a lot more but not a lot less of. You also need to make sure that you use the right kind of mortar and pestle. Marble works best and you may notice that some marble mortars are actually finished with a ribbed or somewhat rough interior in order to help with crushing the ingredients. A smooth, glazed or waxed wooden mortar, may not work well for this recipe.

Pesto is one of my favorite pasta sauces because it tastes absolutely amazing and is also super healthy in comparison to any other sauces that may contain more fat or dairy cream. Indulge! 🙂


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