Pesto alla Genovese is the very essence of culinary Liguria.
A green and fragrant sauce that combines the intense flavor of the basil that thrives and perfumes the hillsides sloping down to the sea around Genoa with the sweetness of the pine nuts from the Tyrrhenian Sea, the pungent but irreplaceable aroma of garlic, the savoriness of aged cheeses, and the smoothness of olive oil, another pearl of Ligurian olive mills.
There is an ancient and fascinating story behind pesto alla Genovese, which tells of peoples, cultures and territories. A sauce that has been able to travel and transform itself in the different cities where it has arrived and finding in Prà, a neighborhood of Genoa the ideal place to grow, thus becoming the emblem of an immortal blend of flavor.
The first written recipe dates back to the first half of the 19th century, inspired by older pounded sauces, such as agliata, made with garlic and walnuts, widespread in Liguria during the Genoese maritime republic.
It was later with basil, an aromatic plant native to the East and introduced to Sicily by the Arabs, that it became what we know today as one of the most iconic condiments in Italian cuisine.
Traditionally, pesto alla Genovese is made by pounding (pestare, hence the name) basil with salt, pine nuts and garlic in a marble mortar, and then adding Parmigiano Reggiano, Fiore Sardo and extra virgin olive oil from the Ligurian Riviera.
We are talking about a sauce that is a symbol of Ligurian culture and identity. Today more than ever it has become a protagonist on the tables of the Ligurian Riviera and experiences that engage curious travelers in sensory and emotional activities related to the area.
Imagine preparing pesto in a mortar, a moment of high experiential value, of pure life that is permeated with scents, manual actions, and finally taste by sitting at the table and savoring what we have created with our hands.
What is the difference compared to the French pistou, typical of Provence? Certainly that it does not contain pine nuts and cheese, but it does not distinguish a territory so prominently; it has never become an icon of a culture.
Or Sicilian red pesto that adds sun-dried tomatoes and almonds to a version very similar to that prepared in the faraway Genoa? Or walnuts replacing basil in a Tuscan version of pesto?
We're talking about a media exposure that has surely been influenced by the tastes of the Italians of recent generations, an ability to differentiate and tell a different story in the world than other sauces, becoming as much a symbol of Italian-ness as a ragù, a tomato sauce, a carbonara.
Attracting visitors hungry for unique and engaging experiences and traditional and colorful cuisine.
Pesto alla Genovese is a sauce that encapsulates the history, tradition and taste of Liguria.
What, besides basil, is the ingredient that could never be missing from your version of homemade pesto? How would you pair it in an unusual dish to impress a guest?
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