Italy

Dish

No matter what herbs go into it, pesto has a long history. Ancient Romans pounded together garlic, cheese, and herbs, a paste they called moretum. In the Middle Ages, Italians mashed walnuts with garlic, a mix that was especially popular among Liguria’s seafaring culture: The paste was thought to help ward off sickness during long sea voyages. Still, the most famous pesto—and the one we tend to think of when we hear the word—is pesto alla genovese. The first recipe for this kind of pesto can be traced to 1863 in the first major book of Ligurian cuisine, so it’s relatively new. But it already has a very carefully-defended tradition! In fact, pesto alla genovese is D.O.P.-protected, meaning that in Italy and Europe, only sauces made in this precise way, and with these ingredients, can even call themselves pesto genovese. The ingredients must include D.O.P. basil from Genoa, for example, because the soil and climate in that particular area gives the basil a flavor that’s impossible to replicate elsewhere. The word Pesto is is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar

Ingredients

  • 100 gm of fresh basil. Use local basil but make sure is not too strong or is one of those variety that tastes almost like mint
  • 30 gm pine nuts ( Sicilian are the best )
  • 60 g aged Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese freshly grated, do not compromise on this ingredient and make sure is good quality
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 g Maldon flaky salt
  • 80 cc Extra Virgin Olive Oil from “Ligurian Riviera” d.o.p., renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, which adds flavour to the basil and dressing.

Method

  1. The marble mortar and wooden pestle are the tools traditionally used to make pesto.
  2. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them on a paper towel but don’t rub them.
  3. In a mortar finely crush the basil leaves the garlic clove and pine nuts ,add the salt and cheese to he mixture and keep pounding using a light circular movement of the pestle ,add some of the Extra Virgin Olive from time to time and keep
  4. Pounding and mixing until you obtain a very fine and smooth creamy sauce, pesto should not be greasy and the amount of oil used must be well absorbed and not floating on top
  5. The preparation must be done as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation problems
  6. You have now obtained more less 300 gm of pesto which should be more than enough to dress for 6 – 8 people
NOTE: The reason why, you should not use a blender, is because rather than having its juices released by crushing action of the wooden pestle, the metal blade of the blender will chop the leaves and this action will compromise the flavor.