Italian Pesto Sauce
Yield 6-8 TBS of pesto
We stopped in Genova during a vacation to the French and Italian Riviera's in Summer of 2018 to learn how to make the original Pesto. Genova is the birthplace of pesto, salami, and Christopher Columbus.
My hubby Mike is such a huge fan of pesto so this was a bucket list dream for him to learn how to make the best pesto in Italy. We learned so much during this cooking class and highly recommend anyone visiting Genova to try it. You will also learn the history and culture of the Genovese people along with traditional cooking techniques.
They are very serious about their pesto as you will see in the following recipe. To further assure you are making genuine pesto, the chefs recommend DOP products. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, the Italian term for the EU system of Protected Designation of Origin. These are EU laws that the names of specialty food products with a specific geographic origin. This is applied typically to cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you see it on a restaurant's menu or food label, it is expressing the product is of genuine article sourced from the the correct region.
Although it's highly recommended to use the DOP products, it's not always practical or easy to find. We use high quality ingredients that are not DOP from our local stores at home and the recipe still comes out phenomenal.
We make this recipe all of the time at home and use it in many different entrees. Each time we do, it whisks us back to the wonderful time in Italy. We hope you will find this to be a staple in your home too.
We had such a great time with our hosts and chefs Cristina and Mario. Read more about our experience in Genova and taking this course here: The Bristol Palace Hotel and Pesto Pasta Cooking Class in Genova, Italy
To book a class in Genova, contact Creativvando:
16124 Genova (Italy)*
tel +39 010 4037763
- 1 or 2 Garlic cloves
- 2-3 TBS pine nuts
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt
- 2 oz Ligurian basil leaves DOP
- 1 TBS Pecorino cheese DOP
- 7 TBS extra virgin olive oil from Liguria
- 4-6 TBS parmesan cheese DOP
CHEF'S NOTES & INSTRUCTIONS
Pesto is a cold sauce, synonym and symbol of Genoa and the whole Liguria, which few
decades is one of the most well-known and widespread sauces in the world.
The first traces of pesto we find even in 800 and since then, the recipe has always
remained the same, at least in home preparation.
To do the real pesto sauce takes a marble mortar and pestle of wood and a little
To prepare the pesto sauce should be first noted that the leaves of basil are not washed
but only cleaned with a soft cloth and that it is Ligurian or Genovese basil, narrow-leaved
(and not the southern large leaves).
- We start preparing the pesto by placing the peeled garlic in a mortar and, after
worked with the tool, add the pine nuts.
- "Crush" until the mixture has reduced cream
- Add the basil leaves together with a pinch of salt, that will serve to better crush the fibers and
maintain a beautiful bright green color, crushed, then, basil against the walls of the mortar
rotating the pestle from left to the right and at the same time rotate the mortar in the
opposite direction (from right to the left), taking him by the "ears", or 4 round point that
characterize the mortar itself, keep it up until the basil leaves will not come out a bright
- Add the cheese stirring continuously in such a way that they're going to make it even
creamier sauce, and finally the extra virgin olive oil that will pour in, stirring constantly
with the pestle. Mix well the ingredients until you get a smooth sauce.
DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, the Italian term for the EU system of Protected Designation of Origin. These are EU laws that the names of specialty food products with a specific geographic origin. This is applied typically to cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you see it on a restaurant's menu or food label, it is expressing the product is of genuine article sourced from the the correct region.
Although it is recommended by the chefs to use DOP products, it's not always practical or easy to find. We use high quality products from our local stores that work just as great! Do not worry about DOP labeling if your store doesn't have it. It'll still turn out phenomenal!
Love that you’re so generous in sharing the recipes you’ve discovered and recommend. I am a huge fan of pesto so will attempt to make this soon.
I love pesto too! So delicious on a panini! Thanks for the great recipe.
This sounds so good! I discovered my love of pesto rather recently–in the last few years. I wasn’t sure about trying it, but when I did, I wondered why I waited so long. Yum!
When we visited Genova, we took a boat over to Portofino. There we had a pesto making demonstration and then lunch in a castle — the best pesto over pasta that I ever had.
What did you enjoy more: making it or eating it?
YUM! I will share this recipe with my daughter. She LOVES pesto on pasta, in sandwiches…pretty much any way you can eat it, she wants it.
Sounds like such an enriching experience!
I like to them my Christmas Parties and this year we are doing an Italian Christmas. This would be a great addition but I have a few questions. Where do you find Pecorino cheese and Ligurian basil leaves? I am trying to get my menu all worked out!
Liguria is the region where Genova is and the basil would be from that region. Pra’ is where the Genovese get their Ligurian basil to make pesto. Not practical for us, so we just but the best organic basil we can find. The cheese you can find at most grocery Deli’s. Don’t worry about the DOP, that’s a European labeling standard we don’t use in the States. Let me know how it goes, enjoy!!
I make pesto all the time in the summer when my basil is out of control but I usually just throw ingredients together. This coming summer I’ll have to take the time to make it correctly with your recipe. Thanks for sharing!
I’m so happy you shared this recipe. I read about your trip and I instantly wanted to make some 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
what an interesting article. I enjoyed it. thank you