- Ingredients for 5 or 6 servings:
- Basil leaves (Ocimum basilicum) - 50 grams; possibly "baby" leaves, the Genoese basil used in the official recipe is from the Genoese district of Prà.
- Extra virgin olive oil, possibly produced in the Ligurian region (a delicate taste); half a cup (as necessary).
- Grated cheese - 6 tablespoons of Parmesan "Parmigiano Reggiano" or "Grana Padano" and 2 of "Pecorino Sardo Fiore".
- Garlic - 2 cloves (garlic of Vessalico, very mild)
- Pine nuts (from Pinus pinea grown in the Mediterranean area): 1 tablespoon - Walnuts, of the variety "Juglans regia" might replace the pine nuts
- Coarse marine salt - a few grains
In the video at bottom a demonstration given by Andrea Della Gatta, the President of the Consorzio Pesto Genovese.
Pesto Genovese recipe
History of the Pesto
Virgil's recipe - The traditional Moretum recipe according to Virgil: drop in hot water four heads of garlic, then carefully clean the cloves and put them in a large stone mortar (the Romans didn't have blenders) together with 400 grams of semi-hard cheese, three stems of celery, peeled and cut into chunks, a few sprigs of rue (it can be replaced with rocket, which is spicy but not as bitter) and fresh leaves of coriander (very difficult to find nowadays, can be replaced with a few leaves of parsley and celery and some coriander seed). After having mixed the whole thing taste and in case add salt (the ancient Romans used salt in abundance), then mix with the pestel, add a tablespoon of strong vinegar and 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. The compound must be creamy but so hard that can be fashioned like a ball. Peasant Symilo served it with slices of rustic whole wheat bread.
The "recipe" suggested by Ovid (Fasti, IV, 367) includes cheese, garlic, olive oil, celery, rue and fresh coriander leaves, but no vinegar.
The Medieval agliata was a sauce that can also be considered a forerunner of the pesto. It was made with garlic and chopped nuts and had for centuries a crucial place in the diet of Genoese and Ligurians, especially at sea, because they ate large amounts of garlic to prevent diseases and infections during long voyages.
The first written recipe of a Genoese Pesto appeared only in the 19th century. In 1863 Giovanni Battista Ratto published the seminal "Cuciniera Genovese", where the recipe for Pesto - with pine nuts - is as follows: "Take a clove of garlic, basil (or marjoram and parsley if you do not have basil), Dutch cheese and Parmesan cheese grated and mixed together all in a mortar with a little butter until it is reduced to a cream. Dilute with light oil in abundance. With this sauce you can dress pasta and gnocchi, adding a bit of hot water without salt to make it more liquid."
In the course of time the recipe was improved and perfected, with specifications of all ingredients and procedures. For some decades now the Consorzio Pesto Genovese, an association of Ligurian producers, has worked to defend the authenticity of the product and the Ligurian basil. Of the seven ingredients required (basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, pecorino fiore sardo, coarse salt) all but the salt are DOP (protected brand) or IGT (labeled with the locality) products.