Genoese pesto (Basil Sauce)



Genoese pesto (Basil Sauce)

Speaking of pesto, Liguria immediately comes to mind: it is in this beautiful region, in fact, that this sauce, which is even claimed to have aphrodisiac properties, was created with great care.
Pesto is a cold sauce, a synonym and symbol of Genoa and the whole of Liguria, which for several decades has been among the best known and most popular sauces in the world.
The first traces of pesto can be found even in the 19th century and since then the recipe has always remained the same, at least in the homemade recipe. To make real Genoese pesto you need a marble mortar and a wooden pestle and... a lot of patience.
Like every traditional recipe, every family has its own one for Genoese pesto (basil sauce), the one we present in this recipe is from the Genoese Pesto Consortium.

Basil 1 oz (25 g) - leaves
Extra virgin olive oil ¼ cup (50 ml)
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP cheese 0.35 cup (35 g) - to grate
Pecorino cheese 2 tbsp (15 g) - to grate
Pine nuts 1 tbsp (8 g)
Garlic 1 clove
Coarse salt 1 pinch

How to prepare Genoese pesto (Basil Sauce)

To prepare Genoese pesto (basil sauce), first of all you need t make sure the basil leaves are not washed, but cleaned with a soft cloth (1-2); also you need to make sure that the variety is Ligurian or Genoese basil, with narrow leaves (and not the southern kind with wide leaves, which often has a minty aroma). Start preparing the pesto by placing the peeled garlic in a mortar 3.

along with a few grains of coarse salt 4. Start crushing the ingredients 4 and, when the garlic has been reduced to cream 5, add the basil leaves together with a pinch of coarse salt 6, which will serve to better crush the fibers and keep a nice bright green color.

Crush the basil against the sides of the mortar by rotating the pestle from left to right and simultaneously rotate the mortar in the opposite direction (from right to left), taking it by the "handles", i.e. the 4 round protrusions on the sides of the mortar itself 7. Continue this way until a bright green liquid comes out of the basil leaves 8; at this point add the pine nuts 9 and resume reducing the ingredients to a cream.

Add the cheeses a little at a time, stirring continuously 10, to make the sauce even creamier, and finally the extra virgin olive oil 11 poured in a stream, as you keep stirring with the pestle. Mix the ingredients well until you get a homogeneous sauce 12. Your authentic Genoese pesto is ready to be used!


You can refrigerate the freshly prepared pesto in an airtight container for 2-3 days, taking care to cover the sauce with a layer of oil. Pesto can also be frozen in small jars and then thawed in the fridge or at room temperature.

Interesting fact

To obtain an excellent Genoese pesto, the basil leaves must be dry, and not crumpled at all, since the breaking of the vesicles containing the essential oils placed on the top of the leaves would result in the oxidation and alteration of their color and flavor, making the pesto dark green and grassy tasting.
For the preparation of Genoese pesto (basil sauce), use sweet and ripe oil because the latter, in addition to acting as a solvent for the aromatic basil substances, ensures the perfect blend, enhancing the aroma of basil and mitigating the spicy garlic.


Like apples and eggplants, basil oxidizes too, alas. If you do not want to end up with pesto that, although tasting good, looks like squid ink, you will have to use two tricks: 1. process it at the speed of light (exposure to oxygen is one of the causes of discoloration); 2. avoid overheating it (high temperatures have the same effect). And here we need to talk about the blender. If you do not want to use a mortar and pestle, you can use a blender (if possible, with plastic blades, as metal makes the leaves bitter): you will get a finer textured pesto, but it will still be very good. To avoid overheating, you can blend at the lowest possible speed and in pulses, i.e. blend a few seconds, stop and resume until blended. Another trick: place the bowl and blades in the fridge for one hour, so they will be cold and ready to use.