How to Make Perfect Basil Pesto
Pasta with Pesto alla Genovese: the Recipe
Hailing from the town of Genoa in the northern region of Liguria, pesto has found its way across the world to secure its place as one of Italy’s best-loved sauces. The name ‘pesto’ derives from the Genoese word pestâ which means to crush or pound, referring to the preparation method of pounding fresh basil leaves along with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, pecorino cheese, salt and extra virgin olive oil. This releases the fragrant flavors creating a versatile paste which can be served with pasta, spread on bruschetta or used as an accompaniment to meat and fish.
Although the green Genoese basil pesto is the best-known version, there are other variations of pesto which use the same method with different ingredients such as tomatoes, red bell peppers, arugula, almonds and pistachios.
Quick to prepare and bursting with flavor, pesto is an easy, delicious, no-cook sauce which celebrates the aromatic basil and quality olive oil of the Ligurian region with a spicy kick of garlic and a crunch of pine nuts. Pesto pairs well with any kind of pasta but the authentic Genoese recipe calls for trofie (a short, twisted pasta made with just flour and water), trenette (a long, thin pasta similar to linguine) or mandilli de saea (the Genoese term for fazzoletti di seta, in English ‘silk handkerchiefs’, thin sheets of pasta). Another traditional touch is to add boiled potatoes and green beans which thicken up the dish adding an extra element of flavor and texture.
While undoubtedly the most authentic way to prepare pesto is by hand with a pestle and mortar, to save time you could use a blender. Just make sure that you put the blades in the freezer for an hour beforehand and blend at a low speed in short bursts to ensure that the basil does not overheat and turn black.
Pasta al Pesto Genovese – Pasta with Basil Pesto
What you need:
For the pesto:
- 80g fresh basil leaves
- 125g extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 20g pine nuts
- 40g grated parmesan
- 20g grated pecorino romano
- Pinch of sea salt
For the pasta:
- 200g pasta
- 100g green beans
- 120g potatoes
What to do:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
In the meantime, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1cm chunks, top and tail the green beans and cut into 2cm lengths.
Put the pesto ingredients into a pestle and mortar and pound until you achieve a smooth paste. Alternatively blend everything together in short pulses on a low speed (remember to freeze the blades of your blender in advance).
Add the beans and potatoes to the boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes and then add the pasta to the same pan and cook for the number of minutes indicated on the packet. (The beans and potatoes will take around 8-10 minutes to cook so calculate the right moment to add the pasta to make sure everything is ready at the same time.
Drain the pasta, potatoes and beans, place in a large bowl and add the pesto. Mix everything together well then serve with an extra sprinkle of parmesan.