Pesto, simply translated means pounded. It is one of the Lingurian regions most prized ingredients and traditionally hand pounded. Today many use food processors or blenders but you can still find devoted traditionalists who hand pound it proving that the taste is still superior with this method due to the increase of released essential oils from not only the basil but the garlic and pine nuts as well. The oils are more readily released when pounded versus cut or chopped. Traditionally a large wooden pestle is used and a marble or granite mortar for the pounding process. (They say the granite on many of the mortars still around is the same granite that Michael Angelo used to carve and sculpt with)
Garlic (they say the garlic in this region is sweeter as well due to the ocean air influence)
Genovese basil leaves-small deep green and sweet leaves, not too pungent and always young
Pine nuts-from the Lingurian region as well, they claim the taste is sweeter and nuttier and also has a higher oil content than pine nuts in the east or south
Extra virgin olive oil-of course with the local regionâ€™s olives which have a milder sweeter flavor than other Italian olive oil
Pecorino, grated finely
Parmesan Reggiano, grated finely
There are several different paths to get to the final product. We have read about and seen many different ways but the way in which we say most was the following method and order.
The pesto is pounded slowly, first by combining the garlic with the coarse salt until a paste if formed adding a little bit of salt at a time. Next the leaves of the basil are added which are small on the Genovese plant and thus a few at a time are incorporated little by little pounding and mashing until the paste begins to turn green and the basil is broken apart. Pine nuts are added next again crushing and pounding until they are smashed into a paste and all oils are released. The pounding process is slow and methodical and each step has a finished product before moving on to the next step. The extra virgin olive oil is added next and once the cheeses are added no more pounding can be done so when the olive oil stage comes the desired consistency of the paste must be completed before adding cheese. Add the cheese and stir with the pestle.