Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese
Lingurian Basil

Pesto has only taken root in North America in recent history, becoming popular in the 80's as a grocery store item. One could speculate that the ancient Romans, who made and ate a paste of cheese, herbs, salt, oil, vinegar, and nuts are the originators of pesto.

The nucleus of modern day pesto started in North Africa and India, when basil became the main ingredient. Basil pesto took hold in Provence (as pistou) and in Liguria (as Pesto alla Genovese). In the 1860's a recipe for pesto with basil is published in La Cuciniera Genovese. Then the recipe travels with the immigrants to the New World.

The Italian style pesto was introduced to a much wider audience when Italian immigrant and University of Washington Professor Angelo Pellegrini's pesto recipe is published in a 1946 issue of Sunset Magazine. The recipe consisted of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, with no precise measurement.

This makes sense when you think that pesto, which means to crush or bash, is a combination of just a handful of ingredients mashed together. You can see how you might want to add a little more or a little less of one thing or another to match your palate.

To make a typical pesto, you crush fresh young basil, Italian pine nuts, add Parmigiano-Reggiano, sea salt and olive oil. (The Silver Spoon New Edition)

That's all it takes; a mortar and pestle, elbow grease, and you can make your own. Or, you can use a food processor, though the results are less textural and more mushy, like a moist paste.

Garlic and cashews are also often on the list of ingredients. Commercially, cashews ($7 per pound) are often used as they are less expensive than Italian pine nuts,($63 per pound) while maintaining the correct texture or mouth feel. Our version does not include garlic nor cheese, both of which can easily be incorporated just before using or serving. This keeps the pesto more versatile to match the palate of your guests.

The company, La Favorita Live S.r.l., originally only sold their foods in the Piedmont and Liguria regions, using natural ingredients with simple commercial production.

Today, using what is considered the best for Pesto, basil from Genoa, "Basilico Genovese" is protected by the European Union with the Denominazione di Origine Protetta or the DOP designation. Pesto alla Genovese is an excellent representation of the quality the company still produces today, more than 60 years after its inception.

Using a machine of rotating knives and a mixing machine of "antique" origin allows for a delicate, handmade result in a commercial environment, allowing the basil to maintain its character all the way to you. Topped up with Ligurian olive oil (made from ripe Taggiasca olives) creates a natural preservative and cover for the pesto.

To make your own freshly made pesto, using young, freshly picked basil, is a great way to go. But, there is nothing like a jar of Pesto alla Genovese for ease of use and authentic taste!

This is definitely an Essential Pantry item! Add to a bowl of trofie pasta, and you have an authentic Lingurian delish dish!

Pesto alla Genovese!