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How to Make Pesto Alla Genovese

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Pesto alla Genovese


The Pesto

“Pesto” is a generic grinded or shredded ingredient: it can be made only of vegetables or with meat. This term would have been archived and be used in the kitchen only by insiders if it wasn’t for Emanuele Rossi: in 1852 he had the great idea and created a recipe that is now known all over the world as Pesto alla Genovese.

The history and origin of basil Pesto alla Genovese

Originally the pesto as we know it today was named and used in “La Vera Cuciniera Genovese” as sauce for condiments named “garlic and basil pesto”, so it got its famous name “alla genovese” only years later. As the changed name indicates the main ingredient is the Genovese DOP basil, called that way because it is mainly grown in the Genoese district of Pra ‘.

Basil, however, is a plant native to India still used today in the traditional cuisine of in the East, but already known by the ancient Egyptians who even considered it sacred. Known and appreciated also by the ancient Romans, it often appears in texts of Pliny the Elder: the term basil derives from the Latin basilicum and means “royal or princely robe”.

There is no certain evidence, but it seems that in the East its characteristic perfume has been used to produce essences and fragrances intended for royalty; a plant worthy of a king, as we could say.

Basilico ligure


Pesto Alla Genovese


The Pesto Alla Genovese

Speaking of pesto comes to mind immediately the Liguria: it's in this beautiful region that, with skilful care, is born this sauce that is said to be even aphrodisiac.
The pesto sauce is a cold, synonym and symbol of Genoa and Liguria, which for decades was one of the most famous sauces and disseminated worldwide.
The first traces of the pesto are even on the 8th century and since then, the recipe has always remained the same, at least in the homemade preparation. To make real pesto alla genovese you need a marble mortar and a pestle of wood e. .. patience.

This recipe has been used for centuries in traditional Mediterranean cuisine and is a simple preparation that can also be used nowadays. It keeps the benefits of its ingredients intact and is an excellent condiment for first courses or vegetable dishes. Like all foods included in the Mediterranean diet it should not be consumed too frequently making the diet monotonous. Instead as in every good diet it is important to vary and rediscover the authenticity local foods.

Ingredients: extra Vergine olive oil, basilico, Pine nuts, Pecorino



  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 4 Basil bunches leafs
  • 1 Glass Olive oil, Extra Vergine
  • 3 Tablespoon Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 3 Tablespoons Pecorino chees
  • 1 Tablespoon Pine nuts
  • 1 Pinch salt

Il Mortaio



  1. To prepare the pesto alla genovese it should be first clarify that the basil leaves are not washed, but clean with a soft cloth, and it must be Genovese basil or from Liguria sort, a narrow leaves (and not that southerrn italian sort with big leaf, which has often an aroma of mint).
  2. So put the basil leaves in a marble mortar with a pinch of salt (which will serve to better crush the fibers and to maintain a nice green color), the garlic, and with a circular motion of the pestle crush it but do not use violence, crush the ingredients to the sides of the mortar to obtain a bright green liquid.
  3. Add the pine nuts and continue to beat with a rotary motion until you amalgamate well with the juice of basil and you will obtain a homogeneous sauce.
  4. Now you can add cheese that will make it even more creamy sauce, and the last olive extra virgin olive oil that will be poured drop by drop.

Basilico Genovese

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Olio Extravergine Della Riviera Ligure


Use a good extra virgin olive oil

One of the proven benefits of extra virgin olive oil is that the levels of LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol) decrease without affecting the total levels of HDL cholesterol (or “good” cholesterol). Use of Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva reduces the consumption of saturated animal fats

Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids. These promote the uptake of Vitamins A, D, E and K, and promote antioxidants within the body. By using extra virgin olive oil, animal proteins are better digested. And the oil itself is also a rich source of vitamins, including Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.

The importance of good nutrition and the use of unsaturated fats are generally recognized. Less known perhaps is that olive oil is important to a child’s mental and physical development. In addition, it is an indispensable ingredient of a healthy diet for this vulnerable group.


To get a very good pesto alla Genovese basil leaves have to be dry, and should not be minimally stropicciate, since the rupture of vesicles containing the essential oils placed on top of the leaves, cause the oxidation of color and aromas, making the pesto dark green and with the grassy aroma.
To prepare the pesto alla genovese, use an extra vergine olive oil fresh and mature, because it act as well as solvent for the aromatic substances, provides the perfect mix, enhancing the aroma of basil and the spicy garlic mitigating.

Pesto alla Genovese: properties of its ingredients

Since ancient times, basil has been used as a herbal remedy – as we would call it today – to help with some health issues such as:

  • gastric disorders. In fact, eugenol acts directly on the gastric mucosa which, by relaxing, promotes a sense of hunger and is therefore particularly recommended in cases of stress that leads to loss of appetite.
  • rheumatic pain and stress. Another function by eugenol is to relieve rheumatic pain by acting as an anti-inflammatory and to act on the central nervous system to relax the whole organism.
  • also being rich in polyphenols and flavonoids it boasts an antioxidant action that has the potential to help preserve hair and skin health

However, in order to benefit from these substances, they have to be consumed raw. Therefore pesto is a good solution as it is a crushed fresh leaf.

To implement this effect there are also pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil: the first are a dried fruit which in addition to regulating the cholesterol level, they also contain antioxidant substances such as extra virgin olive oil which rich in oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, that nowadays are the most powerful antioxidant molecules that can be found in food.

A Great Maestro


Working with pesto alla genovese must be done in the less time as possible to avoid problems of oxidation.
If you want to use the blender is certainly better to opt for plastic knives, as the metal in fact have the defect not to release full flavor from the leaves, making the pesto bitter. This method is very common, may provide a more emulsified sauce, similar to a cream, and the advice I can give is to use the mixer to lowest speed possible, so as to avoid heating due to friction.

© 2009 Angelo


Angelo (author) from Italy on September 24, 2021:


Genova Man on March 19, 2009:

finally someone who is preparing the pesto as we do in Genoa

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