Basil Pesto is without a doubt the most famous product of Ligurian gastronomy. It is a sauce made with basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, grated Pecorino Sardo, Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
Pesto originated in Genova, Liguria capital city, and traditionally it is made crashing all the ingredients in a marble mortar ("mortaio" in Italian) using a wooden pestle. Pesto is commonly paired with Trofie, the typical pasta from Liguria, Trenette and Liguine, but thanks to its versatility you can pair pesto with any kind of pasta shape you love the most.
The original Pesto alla Genovese is made with Basilico di Genova DOP, a basil variety cultivated along the coastal areas of Liguria and characterised by small, extremely tender leaves. We know it can be hard to find it, for this reason our recommendation is to choose bunches of basil with smaller leaves, with a lighter green colour compared to those you might normally see. This will ensure a pesto with a more delicate and balanced flavour.
Trofie al Pesto: The Recipe
Trofie are a very unique shape of pasta, that you can hardly find in any other region in Italy. Trofie are made with only two ingredients, water and flour, and have a characteristic shape of a curl with thinner ends. Thanks to their shape, trofie are the perfect match for pesto, because they can easily capture just the right amount of sauce. An explosion of flavour at every bite!
Unlikely many other pasta sauces, pesto is not cooked, but made with fresh ingredients and added to the cooked pasta at the end. Only a few ingredients are involved to prepare, for this reason it is very important to use only fresh and fine quality ingredients to ensure a fantastic final result.
4 bunches of fresh basil (60-70 g of leaves circa)
45-60 g of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
20-40 g of Pecorino Sardo
50 mlof Extra Virgin Olive Oil (we recommend to use the one made with Taggiasca olives, the cultivar typical of Liguria region and used in the original pesto recipe)
10 g of coarse sea salt
30 g of pine nuts
1 or 2 garlic cloves
If you do not have a mortar and a pestle, you can use a food mixer to blend all the ingredients – but make sure not to exaggerate! The real pesto is not too creamy, but it has a more rustic and coarse texture.
Wash the basil leaves carefully and then dry them gently using some kitchen paper. Make sure you do not press the leaves too much. If you are using an electric mixer, put all the ingredients and mix until you get the desire texture. If you are using a mortar, start placing the garlic cloves and a few grains of coarse sea salt in the mortar and crush with the pestle. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush until you get a quite coarse pulp. Add the basil leaves and crush gently, then add the Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo and mix all the ingredients together. Add a little bit of olive oil at one time to make the mixture softer, then transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the rest of the olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon.
Place abundant water in a large sauce pan and once it starts boiling add some coarse sea salt. Then cook the Trofie (or any other kind of pasta) according to the directions on the packaging. With a spoon, take some water while the pasta is cooking and add it your pesto. This will help you to make it smoother and easier to mix it with the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it with a colander and pour it into the bowl with the pesto. Stir gently until pasta is completely mixed with the pesto.