I’m Not Italian……
I’m not Italian, but I did learn the authentic way to make homemade pesto sauce in Genoa Italy, the home of pesto. The name Pesto comes from the Genoese word, pesta, which means to pound or crush.
Making authentic pesto involves using a pestle and mortar and I’m not going to lie to you, it does take some time and a fair bit of elbow grease. The tender basil leaves are firstly pounded using the pestle as you slowly turn the mortar adding sea salt to help break down the basil. Gradually the other ingredients are added, tasting as you go.
An authentic mortar has four corners to assist in turning the bowl as you go like the one in this illustration. This does it make it easier to turn the bowl, but it’s still hard work.
The recipe I give below is adapted from the authentic recipe so you can make it more easily using a high-powered blender.
It’s The Real Thing.
Loving pesto as I do, I booked a private class with a pesto master during a trip to Genoa. I had tried to make pesto before from various recipes, but they lacked a certain something, although I’m not sure what, and I found it difficult to get the texture just right. Somehow it always ended up a bit too oily or something.
Don’t even mention that stuff you can buy in a jar, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the vibrant, fresh, fragrant yummyness of real pesto sauce. You only need a few ingredients, but make sure they are the freshest you can find to enjoy this easy homemade pesto sauce at its best.
Before I had my pesto making lesson I had been enjoying pesto from the local supermarket in Genoa. It’s supplied fresh there each day and kept in the refrigerated section of the store.
Many Italians swing by on their way home from work to buy pesto, freshly made raw pasta, beautiful cold cuts and cheeses for their evening meal. It’s all so fresh and appetizing, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t dream of buying pesto that has been sitting in a jar filled with preservatives on a store shelf for who knows how long….. yuck!
In Genoa, competitions are held regularly and awards given to the best pesto makers…… they take their pesto making skills pretty seriously.
Being so easy to use, you’re sure to love this easy homemade pesto sauce recipe. Enjoy it with zucchini noodles, on baked salmon and in sandwiches with tomatoes, cheese and cold cuts. I love it swirled into a hearty vegetable soup, it really lifts the earthy vegetable flavors. Of course in Genoa it’s served on top of their minestrone soup and with the local Genoese pasta called ‘Trofie’, small thin twisted shaped pasta.
It’s Also Pretty Healthy…………..
With only 5 ingredients – basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and pecorino cheese, authentic pesto is pretty healthy. It is quite high in fat, so small servings should be used, however with such an intense flavor, small quantities are all you need.
- Basil – Contains the beneficial flavanoid phytochemicals vicenin and orientin which act like antioxidants neutralizing free radicals within the body. Free radicals can increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
- Olive Oil – Full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats which can help lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. An important staple of the healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a great replacement for unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
- Pine Nuts – Containing magnesium, manganese, Vitamin E and K as well as monounsaturated fat pine nuts are considered great for cardiovascular health.
- Garlic – Known to boost the function of the immune system, lower cholesterol and also contains antioxidants.
- Pecorino Cheese – Is made from sheep’s milk and contains a decent amount of calcium, magnesium and is a good source of protein.
A Word On Ingredients……….
Of course, it goes without saying ( but I’ll say it anyway) that when a recipe uses only a few ingredients, it’s important that those ingredients are high quality and super fresh. So that bunch of limp basil languishing in the back of the fridge because you’ve been meaning to do something with it, just won’t cut it in this recipe, or any actually.
- Use bunches of tender very fresh basil and pick the leaves only, you don’t want to use the stems as they can impart a bitter flavor to the sauce.
- Younger fresh garlic should be used and only the outer part of the bulb, not the very center core, again for it’s sweeter, cleaner flavor.
- Pecorino Romano Italian cheeses will provide an authentic taste as will using a good quality virgin olive oil.
- Pine nuts should be sourced in small quantities to ensure they are at their freshest.
Personally I love the tangy flavor of pecorino cheese, however if it’s a bit too tangy for you, try substituting more of the pecorino for Parmesan instead.
In any case you can adapt the pesto to suit your taste, some people like less pecorino and enjoy more of the olive oil flavor coming through. Feel free to adjust the recipe to suit, but it should be a fragrant, bright green garlicky and tangy delight.
Try this authentic and delicious recipe and let me know what you think in the comments section below.