Pesto Genovese is an uncooked cold sauce made only with 7 ingredients: Genovese basil DOP, extra virgin olive oil (Possibly of the Ligurian Riviera), Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano), Pecorino cheese (Fiore Sardo), pine nuts, garlic and salt.
It was born in Liguria, a beautiful region situated in northern Italy. It’s one of the sauces most used in our country and nowadays it’s famous all over the world.
This is the official recipe of the Consorzio Pesto Genovese that is very specific about exactly where the ingredients should come from.
We know that it’s difficult to find all the ingredients of the Italian tradition in foreign countries. But if you want to make the authentic Pesto Genovese recipe stick to these ingredients as much as possible.
So do what you can, but don’t add ingredients that have nothing to do with the authentic recipe (we’ve noticed this in many recipes) such as ricotta cheese, cashew nuts, seeds oil, green beans or lemon juice.
For example do with the basil that you find in your country. Or grow it! It’s really easy to grow basil. Just get some basil seeds (possibly Genovese basil variety) and a small guide of how to grow basil.
And now let’s see together How to make authentic pesto Genovese!
Pesto Recipe: Marble Mortar or Food Processor?
Traditionally, authentic Pesto Genovese recipe is made with a marble mortar and pestle.
It’s a long and tiring work, therefore in this recipe we will use a food processor with some tricks. In 15 minutes you will have a very delicious pesto sauce, green and tasty!
Marble mortar and pestle make sure that basil leaves do not darken. The steel blades of the food processor tend to oxidize basil.
This way you’ll have a very dark green and slightly bitter pesto. But with our help you will have a very green pesto even with a food processor.
If you don’t take some care and follow some tips, the result will not be excellent using a food processor. That’s why you have to carefully follow the instructions below.
An Electric Food Processor is a kitchen tool you may need for this recipe.
The food processor is used for chop, slice, whisk, knead and has variable speeds you can set on your own speed as well as a pulse mode.
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How to Make Pesto Genovese Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 Mins
- Cook Time: 0 Mins
- Yelds: 6
- 50 g of basil leaves (about 60/65 leaves)
- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 70 g (½ cup) of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
- 30 g (2 tablespoons) of Pecorino Fiore Sardo
- 2 peeled garlic cloves
- 15 g (1 tablespoon) of pine nuts
- 4/5 grains of coarse salt
Step 1) – How to make pesto greener? Here is a trick! Take the blades and the bowl of the food processor. Put them into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes until the tools are very cold.
Meantime, prepare basil leaves washing them with cold water. Finally, place them in a large bowl with plenty of ice for 3-4 minutes.
Step 2) – Now dry the leaves very well on a kitchen towel (important: the basil leaves must be very dry). Place them into the food processor (that now is pretty cold) with garlic, pine nuts and grated Parmigiano.
If you will follow these tips you’ll have a very green pesto sauce.
Step 3) – Chop the ingredients coarsely for a few seconds. Then add salt and Pecorino Fiore Sardo cheese cut into small pieces. Blend all the ingredients for about 1 minute.
Now add extra virgin olive oil. Blend for about 5 minutes, until you’ll get a creamy green pesto sauce.
Pesto must not heat up, so be careful to work quickly. Use the food processor at minimum speed and at intervals, that is, blend a few seconds, stop and start again.
Step 4) – Before seasoning your pasta dish, if the pesto is too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. This way you’ll have a warm homogeneous soft pesto sauce.
You can even taste Genovese pesto spread on toasted bread, as an appetizer. Delicious!
How to Store Pesto
Store pesto Genovese in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for 2-3 days. Take care to cover the sauce with a layer of extra virgin olive oil.
It’s possible to freeze the pesto in small jars. Defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
How to make Pesto Genovese with Mortar and Pestle
If instead you want to try making pesto with mortar and pestle, here are the steps to follow:
After washing the basil leaves, dry them thoroughly on a kitchen towel.
Place the garlic in a large marble mortar with a few grains of salt and start pounding with the pestle.
Add the pine nuts and crush them, obtaining a rather coarse mush.
Add the basil leaves while continuing to gently crush, then add the two grated cheeses and mix everything together.
Soften the mixture by slowly pouring the oil until you have a homogeneous, creamy consistency, then transfer it to a bowl and finish mixing it with the remaining oil.
1 – You must never step on the leaves with force, but gently rotate the pestle along the walls of the mortar, so as to tear them up without cutting them.
2 – The processing must take place at room temperature and not take too long, to avoid oxidation which alters the flavor and color of the basil.
3 – The quantity of garlic can be reduced or increased according to personal taste, but the total lack alters the original taste.
4 – Some make an addition of walnuts, tolerable variant, but cashews, parsley and lemon must be avoided.
10 thoughts on “Pesto Genovese | Authentic Italian Basil Pesto”
What do you mean by 4/5 grains coarse salt? Are you calling out 4 or 5 grains of salt or are you referring to a mass of 0.8 grains?
to make pesto you need very little salt because the cheeses are already very tasty. The use of coarse salt (4 maximum 5 grains or kernels or little piecies) refers mainly to pesto made with a mortar. In fact, during mortar processing the coarse salt grains act as a hygroscopic factor, absorbing vegetation water and preventing blackening of the leaf. If you make pesto with a blender, you can replace the coarse salt with fine salt, but I assure you that the bits of salt you feel in your mouth along with the basil and cheeses are a delight!
Having just coming home from Italy I noticed the cheese ratio to domestic pesto is incredible. Genovese pesto tastes more cheesy and has a pungent basil flavor. In the US it’s more oily. I can’t wait to try this recipe once my basil plant gets bigger.
Love the technique to keep it green but the recipe is a little off…such a big amount of cheese to basil/pinenuts … the cheese overwhelms the basil. I will use the technique again but not the recipe, sadly. I am always trying new recipes to see how they compare. Thanks for the tip about the cooling of the tools and basil.
I have made pesto sauce for years, but I never got beautiful green color like the one with your recipe. I am so happy to find this recipe. You show how to make pesto greener. This is a game-changer! Thank you for your tip.
Thank you Yoko!
This was great for the chilling technique. Might as well cool your olive oil down a bit too.
Lightly toasting and then chilling the pine nuts is worth the effort and probably shouldn’t be left out.
Also I found myself running out to the basil plants mid-recipe because the cheese proportion here is really large – makes a pastel milk-green pesto. Used a digital food scale to weigh by the gram. Possibly California Sweet basil just needs about 40% more by weight then Genovese Basil, but that seems unlikely.
Pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk) from Italy worked well as a 1:1 substitute by weight for the harder to find stuff.
To lilo nido, freezing works best. Put fresh pesto in a zip top freezer bag, squeeze every last bit of air out, and place in bottom coldest part of freezer. Use a big bag so it freezes fast into a thin “sheet” of pesto.
Try freezing your pesto in an ice cube tray covered with plastic wrap. Once the pesto is frozen (I just wait for a day), transfer to a freezer bag. Vacuum seal with appropriate (freezer) bags for optimum freshness and longer storage.
This way your pesto is already portioned* and it’s easier to deal with like this. I do not find a sheet of frozen pesto particularly easy to deal with at all.
*For most uses I’ve encountered, one ice cube is one portion for one person, unless you’re doing the classic, simple pasta with pesto in which case I use two ice cubes of pesto for the amount of pasta I consider a single portion.
P.S. If you want your pesto to freeze as quickly as possible (and you should!), the best place to put the ice cube tray is as close to where the vent where the cold air blows out. It can’t get any colder anywhere else in the freezer and the blowing air cools and freezes your pesto as quickly as possible (think about ‘wind chill factor’ temperatures in the winter).
Thank you for the pesto recipe. Is there a special advice for preserving (canning) pesto so it can be stored in little jars like the one we can buy in a delicatessen store?
We are using fresh basil from the garden, extra virgin olive oil and the ingredients from your recipe.
Freezing works best! See comment just after yours for more specifics.