PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

Make this beautiful, vibrant basil pesto for dinner tonight! It can be prepared, while the pasta is cooking. Add a simple green salad, and some toasted, buttered bread slices and dinner is served. Healthy, quick and ready in less than half an hour.

Basil is the herb that I use most in my sauces. I keep it on my kitchen window sill all year round. It is considered to be one of the healthiest herbs.

When I was growing up, every summer my parents planted basil in two old wooden wine barrel halves, that my dad had cut in half. They sat in each corner of the patio. Throughout the summer, the sweet aroma pleasantly lingered in the garden. To this day, everytime I walk by fresh basil, I stop in my tracks to get a big whiff of it. :-)

At the end of each summer, the entire family got involved in making a year's worth of jarred tomato sauce. I was always in charge of harvesting and cleaning the basil. When we were done canning tomato sauce, any leftover basil was made into pesto, and then frozen for the summer months.

I was never a big fan of frozen pesto, but freezing the abundance of basil was better than throwing it out. I never liked how the basil turned to an unappetizing dark green, and the fresh taste of basil and garlic was gone. I prefer to making my pesto fresh,








My parents never used a recipe, but they never made pesto the traditional way either (with a mortar and pestle). Mom pulsed the ingredients in her ancient, 1970's blender, until she got the right consistency. I have always considered myself a traditionalist, when it comes to Italian cooking, but there are a few exceptions that I make, which are puréeing my pesto with a small appliance, and my slow cooker Italian meatballs. :-)

I usually make a really yummy sun-dried tomato pesto, and an arugula pesto (recipe not posted yet), but it's been years since I have made pesto alla genovese. The last time I made basil pesto was back in 2008, using Ina Garten's recipe, which is also very good.


The recipe that I'm sharing today is my own creation. I make it in a bowl and I use my hand blender to puree it for easy clean-up, but you can always use your food processor or blender to make it.

This recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of basil leaves. To measure it, fill the measuring cup to the top, and then firmly, but gently press down on it. It should be about 3/4's full, and when released, the leaves should fluff back up to the rim of the cup. If you feel that more basil is needed, then feel free to add a few more leaves.


I never wash the basil, but you can, if you wish to. Rinse the leaves under cold water; use a salad spinner to remove the access water (the basil leaves won't be damaged); then spread the leaves on a clean dish cloth, and gently pat them dry with another clean dish cloth. You can also let them dry a bit at room temperature, but it will take a little longer to make the pesto.

Place the basil leaves on a cutting board. Any thick, woody stems should be removed.

Bunch up the basil as much as you can in your hand. You can also do this in two or three batches.

Roughly chop the basil leaves (above left photo), then rotate the cutting board 90 degrees and chop the basil again (above right photo).

Place the chopped basil in a bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients (left), and stir everything together like a salad (right). A couple tips on some of the ingredients are ...

1) The garlic needs to be fresh. If you use old garlic with sprouts growing out of them, the flavour won't be as strong. It should also be finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press, so it gets better distributed within the pesto when pureed. 

2) Traditionally, Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheeses are used, but here I used Grana Padano, which is an inexpensive alternative to Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, but still tastes great in the pesto.

3) Using a good quality extra virgin olive oil makes all the difference. It should have an intense peppery taste and it should be slightly bitter but smooth.


The last step is to puree everything together. I used a hand blender, but you can pulse or puree the pesto in a blender or food processor. I like using a hand blender because I find it easier to clean when I am done. By using a hand blender, some of the pine nuts are not completely ground. I like how this adds texture and crunch to a pasta dish.

This recipe makes a small batch, but if you won't be using pesto immediately, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Just make sure to cover it with a thin film of oil, so the top doesn't discolour. The pesto is tastes best the first day or two that it's made. After that, the garlic flavour will weaken and the pesto can turn a bit darker. To revive the flavour, add another fresh garlic clove pressed through a garlic press, and some salt and pepper, to taste.


This recipe is great with just about any type of dried or homemade pasta, as well as gnocchi. I used this on garlic bread and it was divine. The recipe will be posted soon, so stay posted.

Buon appetito!!

  PRINT RECIPE  
PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
(From the Kitchen of For the Love of Italian Cooking)

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups (45 g) basil leaves, gently packed in measuring cups
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) Parmesan, Pecorino or Grana Padano Cheese
  • 2 fresh large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (no substitute)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb linguine, or your favourite pasta
Instructions:
  1. Gather basil leaves into a bunch and roughly chop them. Chop again perpendicular.
  2. Add chopped basil into a medium-size bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well together, like a salad.
  3. Using a hand blender, puree the pesto to desired consistency. 
  4. Serve with your favourite pasta and extra grated cheese on top, or store in a small jar, covered in a thin film of oil for up to a week in the fridge.
Makes 1 cup, enough for 1 lb (500 g) of pasta.

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Rosa G.
Hamburg, Germany
Hi! My name is Rosa and welcome to my blog! I'm a fun loving, most-of-the-time stressed mother of three small boys, and a former cubicle dweller turned pastry chef. I am an amateur blogger and food photographer and lover of good Italian food. My food is simple, fresh, and seasonal (with an occasional frozen pizza).