top of page
  • Writer's pictureErmanno Lelli

Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto is a seductively basic sauce. It is a simple, no cooking recipe that requires few ingredients. As is the case with other renowned recipes, every Italian family has its own pesto recipe and many authoritative sites will present you with a long list of do's and don'ts. Here, I will share with you my version that is very simple but authentic.

For the entire list of ingredients, go to the recipe card below. But do not skip the important information in the blurb.

What is Pesto Alla Genovese?

Pesto alla Genovese is an Italian sauce that originated in Liguria's capital city Genoa. Traditionally, it is made with basil leaves, minced garlic, coarse salt, European pine nuts, olive oil, and hard cheeses such as Pecorino Sardo or Parmigiano-Reggiano.


The term is originated from the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means "to pound," or "to crush," concerning the traditional method of preparation, which involves "crushing" or "pounding" the ingredients in a marble mortar with a circular motion of a wooden pestle. This same Latin origin contributed to the English term pestle via Old French.


Pesto has two ancestors from ancient times that date back to the Roman age. The ancient Romans had a similar sauce termed moretum prepared by pounding garlic, herbs, salt, olive oil, vinegar, and cheese (along with occasionally pine nuts). During the Middle Ages, agliata was a favorite sauce in Genoa cuisine. It was essentially a mush of walnuts and garlic because garlic was the main food for Ligurians, particularly seafarers.

Basil, the primary component in modern Pesto, was introduced recently and was first reported in the mid-19th century in gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto's book named "La Cuciniera Genovese” in 1863.

Make Pesto Alla Genovese from Scratch.

Pesto is a trendy food in Italy, and there are different "ready-made" variants available at supermarkets, ranging from freshly prepared to bottled Pesto. However, homemade Pesto tastes far better, and because it's so easy and quick to make, there's no excuse to make it at home!

To make Pesto alla Genovese, you just need the following few ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (30.2g) of basil leaves or (one large bunch of basil), thoroughly wash and dry them

  • 1-2 tbsp. (15-30g) pine nuts

  • 1-2 garlic cloves

  • ½ cup (125 ml) of extra virgin olive oil

  • 2-3 tablespoons (10-15g) freshly grated pecorino cheese

  • ¼ cup (22g)of grated Parmesan

  • a pinch of coarse sea salt

A Step-by-step Guideline

While tradition usually recommends using a pestle and mortar to make Pesto, it may be easier to whip it using a food processor.

Traditional Method:

Pound the garlic and sea salt until a paste forms in a mortar. Pound the basil leaves (cleaned in cold water, and pat dry) until extremely fine and the vivid green juice begins to leak. Grind the pine nuts till smooth, then add the cheese — the amounts above are regarded as 'perfect,' but for a lighter flavor, use all Parmesan. Add the olive oil in drizzles at a time until the mixture has the creamed butter consistency.

Blender Method:

“I strongly do not suggest the blender as it burns the leaves. I do mine with the knife or a meat grinder with small holes.”

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend at high speed for 1 minute. Carefully open the lid, and then use a rubber spatula to scrape the edges of the blender cup. Check the Pesto's consistency, which should be creamy and thick. If you feel the Pesto is a little thinner, continue blending for another few seconds, but not too much. After making Pesto in a blender, some chefs like to add a little bit of cream to the Pesto. This is not essential, though.

The fresher, the better!

Serve the sauce over pasta, top over bruschetta, or just dig it with a spoon. Eat your food!

Serving Options

  • If serving over pasta, save some of the pasta boiling water and add it to the pasta along with pesto sauce to thin it out, melt the cheeses, and help the pesto sauce stick to the pasta. If preferred, garnish with additional shredded cheese at the table. When I'm combining the pasta with the pesto sauce, I also like to use sliced fresh cherry tomatoes.

  • Pesto is typically served on either long, flat trenette dried pasta or twisted, short trofie pasta, with potatoes and beans cooked in the same pot as the pasta. This is referred to as pesto "Ricco" (rich Pesto) or pesto "avvantiaggiato."

  • It is customary in Genova to cook a peeled potato alongside the pasta. The potato is then diced and combined with the pasta and Pesto.

  • Additionally, the Genovesi frequently incorporates a few cooked string beans.

  • Some cooks dilute the Pesto with a splash of hot pasta boiling water just before tossing it with the noodles.

  • If making minestrone or any vegetable soup, add a tablespoon of Pesto to each serving for an amazing treat.

Chef's notes:

Although, the most popular shortcut is to use a food processor to make pesto sauce, which transforms a relatively tedious task into the easiest and quickest one. But notice the name: Pesto. In Italian, the verb pestare implies to mash or crush. You can mash and crush in a mortar and pestle while a food processor chops and minces. Is this a fair shortcut? Side-by-side batches would show you everything.

At "Casa Pasta'' by Ermanno Lelli, we use a special way to grind the basil and nuts to preserve the aroma and texture.

Come and try! Or order online (Pesto Traditional)


Pesto, covered with a thin coating of olive oil, can be refrigerated for up to a week in an airtight glass container. To freeze, Pour pesto sauce in ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer to zip lock bags to keep the pesto fresh in the freezer for months.

Some Variations of Pesto

Allow yourself to explore the variations of this sauce by trying this traditional recipe. Pesto is incredibly variable. Some recipes use almonds or walnuts instead of pine nuts. Other recipes include mint and basil. Sicilian Pesto contains walnuts and tomato, too. Calabrese pesto is spicier and incorporates roasted bell peppers.

You may also want to try a simplified French variation of Pesto. French cuisine features a very similar sauce because Basil arrived in Provence, France, around about the same time it arrived in Genoa. Pistou is a simple basil sauce that doesn't always include cheese. In fact, pistou only has basil, garlic, and oil.


#casapastahk #casapastabyermannolelli #chef4love #hkchef #pesto #pestosauce #basil #italy #vegetarian #pestopasta #tasty #chef #foodstagram #foodlover #hkfoodblogger #healthy #lunch #delicious #homemade #foodphotography #yummy #italianfood #dinner #hk #hkpasta #hkfoodlover

29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page