I don’t think I have ever purchased a jar of pesto from the grocery store. My mother and grandmother have always grown basil plants. Throughout the summer they harvest their basil and makes large batches of pesto to freeze for the winter months. That’s the awesome thing about pesto, you can freeze it! Your basil plant will never go to waste. I typically freeze it in baby food freezer containers, ice-cube trays, or cupcake liners. Pesto is delicious on more than just pasta or chicken… it can be used on bread, sandwiches, pizza, lasagna, dips, appetizers, vinaigrettes, vegetable marinade, etc. It is a great sauce to have on hand to add flavor to any dish.
As I was making this batch of pesto with my grandma we were discussing its origin. While it is definitely an Italian sauce, my grandmother whose parents were from Italy, said she can’t remember her mother ever making it. She said her mom always had a basil plant and chopped it up to put in dishes, but never the smooth consistency of a sauce.
My curiosity got the best of me and I did some research on the history of pesto. It was born in Liguria, Italy which is northern Italy. The recipe today calls for parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan cheese), but it is interesting to note that some versions of original recipe call for formaggio d’olinda (gouda cheese). The maritime commerce with northern Europe made gouda almost more readily available. Also, seasonal shortages of basil sometimes required marjoram or parsley to be substituted. Obviously they did not have food processors back then to make it like we do today. The traditional way of making pesto is chopping the basil by knife and mashing all the ingredients together.
Maybe pesto was not a traditional Italian dish for my great-grandmother who was from southern Italy. Or maybe her form of pesto was a chopped, more rustic look. Anyway, sorry for getting sidetracked, there’s your history lesson for today! For the sake of time, I make my pesto in a food processor, but more power to you if you chop and mash it by hand.
PESTO ALLA GENOVESE RECIPE
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons graded parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic
Add all ingredients except parmesan to food processor. Blend until smooth. Add cheese and process again until blended. (Feel free to add more parmesan if you like your pesto more cheesy.) Serve on pasta, chicken, flatbread, pizza, etc.
Make sure to keep pesto refrigerated or frozen.