LIGURIAN PESTO: SIMPLE INGREDIENTS, UNIQUE TASTE
During my stay in North America one of the Italian sauce that I have missed the most has been the Ligurian pesto. It is made with very simple ingredients: DOP Basil from Genova, White Garlic from Vassallico, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and Pecorino Sardo DOP that are two hard cheeses that can be grated, Riviera Ligure DOP extra-vergin olive oil, a pinch of salt and some pine nuts. However, it can turn your plates into something surprisingly unique.
This delicious green sauce comes from a coastal region in the north of Italy called Liguria that is famous all over the world for the fine extra-virgin olive oil, for the pesto and for the breathtaking panorama where the uncontaminated reefs immerse into the sea. It is on these cliffs overlooking the sea that passionate farmers grow their basil, the principal ingredient for the pesto. This basil has obtained the Designation of Protected Origin (DOP) because its delicious taste and smell come from the soil and the weather where it is grown as well as the agronomic practices that according to the disciplinary (a document that states all of the characteristics that a DOP product must have) the farmers must follow. So distrust the pesto made with basil that has been not grown in Liguria.
The pesto sauce has a long history and a curiosity about it is that its name derive from the word “crush” , “PESTARE” in Italian, in fact according the ancient method of production all of the ingredients have to be crushed into a marble mortar with a wood pestle. Today, most of the artisans still makes the pesto following the traditional method.
This sauce is so loved Liguria hosts every 2 years the world championship of Pesto, where chefs from all over the world challenge each other with mortar and pestle. The last version of the competition has been won from a Ligurian housewife, this demonstrate that the real Italian food is a matter of passion, heritage, origins.
My personal advice is to try at least once in your life this condiment, capable to satisfy from the most delicate tastes to most demanding, I am sure that after the first bite you will no longer be able to stop.
Traditionally we use it as a condiment for pasta, especially “Trofie”, a traditional Ligurian pasta, or on “Testarolo Pasta” typical of Tuscany, but chefs all over the world use it in hundreds of creative recipes. For example I love it on cold hulled spelt or barley and cherry tomatoes. So use your creativity, but buy only original Ligurian pesto. And if you go to Liguria remember to book your pesto making lesson in one of the traditional labs, you will have a lot of fun!