The Republic of Pesto

A glorious creation of small fantastic region Liguria and its capital Genoa, Pesto is a celebrated treasure of the Mediterranean cuisine. Located in the hills of Appennini, Liguria owns an amazing landscape and a unique microclimate. Pesto features some of the best local ingredients –  Genovese basilDOP Riviera Ligure EVOO and even Pine Nuts. Every family in Liguria proudly owns the TRUE recipe and claims it as the best one.

Several local recipes celebrate the green sauce such as Trofie al Pesto, little twists of pasta in a creamy pesto sauce, Trenette al Pesto uses a local version of linguine. In Liguria, even Lasagna is layered with the beloved Genovese specialty. Pesto means “pounded”, “crushed”, a name that comes from the original method of preparation.  The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are indeed ground in a wooden pestle in a marble mortar.

Mortar or Food Processor?  Williams&Sonoma’s marble mortar is perfect cause you have enough room to maneuver. Still, it’s $99.95, so you may want something cheaper. I got mine (4″ dia) for 10 bucks; both the pestle and the mortar are marble; it’s a little bit small but I learned my way to make it work. And if I don’t have time, I just go with a chopper – with a couple of tricks it works great as well! See more below.

Fusilli al Pesto

GROCERY SHOPPING (2 people)

1.8 oz of basil
1.4 oz Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, freshly grated
0.3 oz of Pecorino, freshly grated
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of pine nuts
0.4 cup of EVOO
3 grains of coarse salt

6 oz of linguine, fettuccine, trofie or your favorite pasta!

HOW-TO

Gently wash the basil, pulling all the stems off and preserving only the leaves. Allow them to dry on a towel, or pat them gently with towel paper. Try to not touch them too much.

MAKING PESTO WITH A PESTLE & MORTAR

Start with the garlic, and add the basil with coarse sea salt. You need to gently roll the pestle against the mortar walls, shredding the leaves as you go. As soon as basil juice starts to form in the bottom of the mortar, it’s time to crush the pine nuts. Add Parmigiano and Pecorino and continue to stir until a nice green mixture is formed. Add the olive oil very slowly, and slowly roll the pestle. Note that this crushing process must be as fast as possible to avoid oxidation. Mix and cover it with a thin layer of EVOO.

1) Full a pot with 2/3 of lightly salted water and bring it to boil (Pesto is already salty itself). Add pasta to boiling water and cook “al dente”.

2) Before draining, combine with a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to pesto so it will cover the pasta evenly.

MAKING PESTO WITH A FOOD PROCESSOR / CHOPPER

Put the pine nuts, garlic, cheese and oil in the chopper and work them at full speed ’til you get a creamy sauce. After that, put the whole attachment in the freezer.

Pesto | Food Processor

1) Full a pot with 2/3 of lightly salted water and bring it to boil (Pesto is already salty itself). Add pasta to boiling water and cook “al dente”.

2) Remove the chopper from the freezer.  Add the basil leaves and work at full speed. Note that stopping the processor  three or four times is very useful for the blades to cool down.

3) Before draining, combine with a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to pesto so it will cover the pasta evenly.

Enjoy!!

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