Classic Easy Pesto alla Genovese Recipe and Instructions

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Short and sweet this week: a classic pesto recipe for the handmade pasta I gave you instructions for a few weeks ago.
At the beginning of October, I had to bring in my plants from the balcony in anticipation of the cold weather, which, as of today, hasn’t arrived yet. Anyway, I harvested my basil:

And ended up with this much (a couple of cups):

And this:

I’d always
wanted to try making pesto but was a little intimidated by it until I
heard Lidia Bastianich on one of my favorite podcasts, America’s Test
Kitchen. She explained that “pesto” comes from an Italian word meaning
“mash”, “grind” or “beat”. Therefore, pesto isn’t cooked; the
ingredients are mashed and beaten in a mortar and pestle or blender. Sounded easy.

FYI, there
are many types of pesto from different regions of Italy. For example,
traditional Sicilian pesto has tomatoes in it.

The version I describe here is pesto alla Genovese and is the most common one in the States. It’s the creamy green one you’re probably thinking of right now.

Additionally, there are
thousands of variations for each version, such as using walnuts instead
of pine nuts. Fortunately this gives me a lot of delicious homework to
do for this blog – I’ll keep you posted.

So, I toasted a few pine nuts in a hot skillet:

Then I put the basil, some salt and some garlic in my blender and pulsed to make a paste. Then I added the pine nuts and some olive oil for a few more pulses. Lastly, I added more oil along with some fresh ground Parmesan cheese. Pulse-pulse and I got this:

I cooked up some of my homemade pasta and spooned the pesto over it. Garnished with a little more grated Parmesan and there was dinner. It was SO much more delicious than I ever expected! This is a keeper!

The best pasta to serve this pesto over is a wide, flat noodle or a thicker, twisted one. The traditional Genovese pastas for this pesto are trenette (the flat one) and trofie (the twisted one). I didn’t have any of those on hand, so I used the tagliatelle from my last pasta-making session.

A caveat: this pesto will turn brownish in the fridge over a few days, so use it immediately. Or, if you want to keep it in a sealed jar, take the time to blanch the basil leaves before you make the pesto. It will retain the beautiful green color much longer that way.

To blanch, put the fresh basil leaves in a metal strainer and plunge the strainer and leaves into a pot of boiling water for about 15 seconds. Push the basil down under the water with a spoon to cook them evenly. Remove the strainer and immediately plunge it and the basil into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well and the basil will be ready to use in the pesto right away.

Here’s the recipe:
Classic Pesto
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich from
Makes 1 cup

1 Pinch of Salt
60 small basil leaves or 30 large
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
2 tablespoons fresh pecorino cheese finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh Reggiano Parmigiano cheese finely grated
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Add basil, salt and garlic to your blender. Work it into a paste, add pine nuts and slowly pour in half of the olive oil. Add cheese and the remaining olive oil. Blend until it becomes a homogenous, creamy paste.

I didn’t have any pecorino, so I just used all Parmesan, which was wonderful. I can’t wait to try the walnut version or even the pistachio. Please leave me a comment and let me know if you try it and how you like this simple, simple recipe. Have a great week!

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