3 easy home-made pestos

As my fork twirls, a bright green speckled sauce silkily coats the long flat strands of my pasta. 

Sat in a quaint trattoria in central Genoa in the Italian region, Liguria, I enjoyed some of the best cooking the city has to offer. 

Located in the north-west of the country, it borders with France and its Mediterranean coastline is better known as the Italian riviera. However, when it comes to culinary successes, it’s home to a well-known Italian pasta sauce – Pesto Alla Genovese; or commonly known as, Basil Pesto. 

Interestingly, the word pesto stems from the Italian verb pestare, which means “to pound” or “to crush”, and that’s exactly how its ingredients are prepared.

Originally made in the summer months, sweet, aromatic basil leaves, were sealed with olive oil, to last till winter.

However, over time, the addition of other local Ligurian produce has led to the well-known delicate flavour enjoyed today. 

Traditionally assembled in a pestle and mortar, garlic and pine nuts are first pounded together which helps release natural oils. Next, basil leaves are added with coarse salt and grounded into a creamy texture. Only then a salty Italian cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino Sardo is added. Finally, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil helps produce its creamy, silky consistency. 

While purists choose this classic method, nowadays the food processor helps whip this up in only a few minutes. 

With no need to heat up, pesto is usually used to dress cooked pasta, potato gnocchi or even a spoonful can be added to a bowl of minestrone. 

Apart from basil pesto from Liguria, there are other delicious pestos that I love to make. One is a red pesto from Sicily, Pesto Alla Trapenese, a pesto made from cherry tomatoes and almonds. Another nutty sauce is another sauce I enjoyed in Liguria – walnuts and herbs.

All three extremely delicious, and unique in flavour with their combinations of ingredients.

Below, I have shared all 3 easy home-made pesto recipes for you guys to make. So, before you go to grab that ready-made pesto jar when you’re next shopping. why not recreate a little fresh pesto yourself and take your pasta game to the next level.

Note: Pesto freezes perfectly too. (just leave the cheese out) and add when de-frosted.

Pesto alla genovese – basil pesto

Basil pesto from Liguria, uses fresh basil leaves, Italian salty cheese, pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil.

The best pasta-pesto combination is trenette or linguine (long thin flat ribbons) or trofie (short, thin, twisted pasta)

Pesto alla genovese (2 portions)

  • 25g Basil leaves, removed from stalk

  • 1 tbsp pine nuts

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  • 3 tbsp parmesan

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil

pesto alla genovese (2 portions)

  • Toast your pine nuts in a frying pan until they are slightly browned
  • Add the pine nuts, basil and garlic into the food processor. Now you pulse it in the food processor carefully and for not too long otherwise the basil will become bitter. Pulse into its all roughly chopped up.
  • Now add the parmesan. Give it another pulse
  • Now pour in your olive oil carefully while you pulse it again carefully.
  • Pour into a bowl and season with salt.

Pesto Alla Trapanese – cherry tomatoes & almonds.

Another pesto that has a long-ingrained history is the Sicilian pesto – alla Trapanese – from Trapani a town on the western coast of Sicily.

Pesto with almonds and cherry tomatoes.

Pesto alla Trapanese (2 portions)

  • 12 Basil leaves

  • 12 Cherry tomatoes

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

  • 2 tbsp pecorino romano, caccio ricotta or parmesan

  • 25g flaked almonds

  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

Directions

  • Lightly toast your flake almonds in a frying pan until they slightly go brown.
  • Halve and deseed your cherry tomatoes. Roughly chop them up.
  • Add the almonds to the food processor. Blitz until roughly chopped.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil leaves. Blitz again in the food processor.
  • Pour in the olive oil while you finish blitzing in the food processor.
  • Pour the sauce into a bowl. Finish by adding the pecorino romano and mix well into the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Pesto di noci – Walnut herb sauce

Sauce from Liguria: many herbs, especially basil are used together with walnuts to make a lovely sauce.

Pesto di noci – Walnut herb sauce (2 portions)

  • 50g shelled walnuts

  • Dry sage, rosemary and oregano

  • 6 Basil leaves

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

  • 2 tbsp pecorino romano, caccio ricotta or parmesan

  • 60 ml Extra virgin olive oil

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

PESTO DI NOCI – WALNUT HERB SAUCE (2 PORTIONS)

  • Add walnuts into the food processor. Blitz into a food processor until roughly chopped.
  • A pinch each of sage, rosemary and oregano. Plus the garlic and basil leaves. Blitz again
  • Pour in the olive oil, while blitzing again.
  • Pour into a bowl. Add and mix the pecorino cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

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