Pesto Genovese is Italian aromatic sauce popular throughout the world which is mostly eaten with pasta but goes also great with homemade gnocchi, lasagna, variety of soups, on pizza or even as a simple spread on a slice of bread.
This fresh herb sauce originates from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria region in the north of Italy. The name pesto comes from the Italian world "pestare" meaning "to crush" which shows the best way of preparing this sauce - using a wooden pestle and marble mortar. Pesto alla genovese is made of fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino and quality olive oil. The secret of authentic pesto alla genovese is in specific basil which comes from the area of Pra (west of Genoa) which is tender and sweet.
You can buy fresh Pra basil in markets in Genoa and the surrounding towns. It is sold as authentic Basilico Genovese. This basil has also its own festival (Sagra del Pesto) - which is held every year in Pra offering visitors chance to taste delicious pesto delicacies.
In Sicily you will find pesto rosso (red pesto) which is similar to pesto alla genovese but with the addition of tomato, almonds instead of pine nuts and much less basil.
Preparation start with crushing the garlic with a few grains of salt until it is softened. Now begin to add basil leaves and using a circular motion slowly crush the basil by moving the pestle around the edges of the mortar. When you notice a bright green liquid being drawn from the leaves, it is time to add the pine nuts (which can be lightly toasted) and continue making ciruclar motions until you get creamy texture. Now add cheeses and finally the olive oil. The sauce should be served immediately to avoid oxidation. Pesto Genovese is usually served with good pasta, first of all the famous "trofie" - typical from Liguria. Pesto is also served with boiled potatoes and beans. If not using the pesto immediately, place it in a jar and let it sit until olive oil makes its way to the top to make a film over the pesto. It will keep in the fridge well for about three days. Pesto also freezes well, freeze it in an ice cube tray.
If you would like to learn how to make perfect basil pesto you should attend cooking class at Grano & Farina Cooking School in Rome. This school offers a variety of cooking classes including Mother's Sauces class on which you can learn to prepare classic Italian sauces (Bolognese, Puttanesca, Alfredo and pesto sauce). This cooking school situated in the heart of Rome, offers friendly atmosphere during their small-group classes which can be taught in three languages: English, Italian and French. Book a cooking class at Grano & Farina Cooking School in Rome!
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