Ancient architecture, beautiful landscapes, and a thriving culture characterize Genoa. Although this diverse city is most commonly known as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, there is much more to Genoa. As Italy’s largest seaport Genoa has drawn people to its quaint alleyways, historic churches, noble castles, monuments, and museums. Additionally, this historic city is also the home of one of the most famous sauces across the world, the pesto.
The original pesto was eaten by the ancient Romans and called moretum. It was made with cheese, garlic, and herbs. When basil, which originates from India, was brought to Italy is when the modern pesto began to emerge. Basil took root in the region of Liguria and the people of Genoa began to modify the ancient moretum recipe. They combine basil, crushed garlic, grated hard cheese, pine nuts, and a little olive oil, then all these ingredients are added to a traditional marble mortar and ground with a wooden pestle to create pesto.
Genoa’s rich tradition of pesto comes alive at the Genoa Pesto World Championship. Every two years participants, both professional and amateurs, come from all over the world to prove they are the pesto champion. In the competition the participants must use authentic ingredients, traditional recipes, and a pestle and mortar. The different pestos are then judged by experts to decide who the new reigning champion will be. If you are interested in going, but do not want to compete, the event is free to watch and open to anyone. They even have a non-competitive “Children’s Championship” for the kids! The event is help at the Palazzo Ducale and will fall on March 17, 2014.
If you want to practice your pesto skills to prepare for the competition you can try Pesto’s Official Recipe from the Genoa Pesto World Championship Website:
MORTAR-MADE PESTO SAUCE RECIPE
FOR THE WORLD CUP
4 bunches of fresh PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Genovese basil, which guarantees high-quality taste and flavor
30 g pine nuts
445-60 g aged Parmesan cheese, grated
20-40 g Fiore Sardo cheese (Pecorino Sardo), grated
1-2 garlic cloves from Vassalico (Imperia)
10 g coarse salt
60-80 cc PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the “Italian Riviera”, renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, which adds flavor to the basil and dressing.
- The marble mortar and wooden pestle are the tools traditionally used to make pesto.
- Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them on a tea towel but don’t rub them.
- In a mortar finely crush the garlic clove and pine nuts until they are smooth. Add a few grains of salt and the non-pressed basil leaves, then pound the mixture using a light circular movement of the pestle against the sides.
- Repeat this process.
- When the basil drips bright green liquid, add the Parmesan cheese and the Fiore sardo cheese.
- Pour in a thin layer of PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the Italian Riviera, which lightly blends the ingredients without overdoing.
The preparation must be done as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation problems.
This is not the only possible way to make pesto. In Genoa and Liguria each person has a secret to this recipe: you will never find two cups of pesto that are the same