Pesto Alla Genovese

Pesto, or Pesto alla Genovese; to refer to the original dish, is a sauce originating in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, and hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Sardo, all blended with olive oil.

Traditional Genoese pesto is made in a marble mortar, where the small, tender Genoese basil leaves are ground together with garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s music for the palate, while this extraordinary magic takes shape before your eyes.

Why do people like Pesto alla Genovese

A symbol of Liguria’s unique cuisine, shaped by its coastline and its history of seafaring, foraging inhabitants, the true, original pesto recipe is the pride and joy of the region’s capital, Genova.

It’s a simple recipe, naturally, but it all comes down to the balance of quality ingredients — and the way these ingredients are treated when combined. Let’s break it down.

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Ingredients that go into Pesto alla Genovese

  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 15g pine nuts
  • 1 tsp coarse rock salt
  • 50g young basil leaves 
  • 30g parmesan, finely grated 
  • 15g pecorino sardo (or more parmesan), finely grated
  • 40ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to top

How to cook Pesto alla Genovese

  • Crush the garlic and pine nuts to a smooth paste with a pestle and mortar. Add half the salt and half the basil, then grind with a light circular movement, crushing the basil against the sides and turning the mortar. Repeat with the rest of the basil and salt.
  • When the crushed basil releases its bright green oils, add the cheese(s). Work gently until mixed and a little sticky, then pour in the olive oil and mix gently with the pestle to form a paste with a bit of texture. Put in a small container and pour over just enough olive oil to cover. It will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

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What can Pesto alla Genovese be served together with

Pesto is a very popular dish in Italy, so much so that you can find “ready-made” versions in all supermarkets, from freshly made pesto to bottled ones. However, homemade pesto tastes much better and since it is very quick and easy to make, I see no reason not to make it from scratch! As with all the most popular recipes, every Italian household has its own pesto recipe, and here I will share my version with you.

This pasta alla Genovese recipe from Manuela Zangara stays true to tradition in this classic Ligurian dish, with basil pesto gently coating al dente pasta, cubed potato and green beans. It’s incredibly quick to make, and packed with flavour. To make this dish vegetarian, swap the Pecorino and Parmesan with similar hard cheeses using vegetable rennet.

Other popular Italian food

Besides Pasta alla Genovese, there are other Italian food dishes that are highly popular in Singapore and around the world. Below is a list of some of the most mentioned ones:

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