Genova the land of pesto and its origins can be traced all the way back to the 16th century. Pesto comes from the Italian “pestare” which means “to pound”. Originally it was made in a marble mortar with a pestle. Although the pesto has become common to identify anything that is made by pounding, the Pesto all Genovese is and always will be, the original.
Growing up I remember listening to my grandmother talking to her friends and my aunts about pesto. It felt as if every woman was competing for the ultimate pesto.
I have to say, I enjoyed the benefits of that wonderful competition. This recipe has been passed down to me by my mother which I have seen her make all my life.
You can always make your own homemade fettuccine time permitting. Click HERE for my own recipe published a while back. Super fun and delicious too, of course.
Types of Basil
Italian basil, Lemon basil, Thai basil, and purple growing basil is not a daunting task and thrive even in my crazy hot climate. So many basil plants to choose from.
For this recipe, I strongly recommend the Italian one or Genovese. Green medium size leaves and so aromatic.
If you are growing a home plant, once you see the small blooming flowers, cut them off to allow the plant to grow more.
To reduce the bitterness of the basil, make sure that you blanch it for less than a minute. No more than that.
Do not skip on the walnut. It gives it that right amount of pungent. Same on the pine nuts.
Crazy how this may sound, however, the best pasta to enjoy pesto is fettuccine.
Play with the garlic clove amount to use. Too much can overpower the basil and the Parmigiano cheese and that is not the Italian way.
Add the cream at the last minute and do not forget to add some of the cooking water to the serving dish to bind it.
Fettuccine or any wider and longer pasta go very well with the pesto. Make sure to bring the water to a boil.
Extra virgin olive oil is a must when making pesto.
Be very generous with your parmesan cheese
My grandmother used to add a potato to the pasta during cooking. The natural starch of the potato adds an extra bit of tastiness to the pesto, not to mention the perfect amount of starch to the pasta for the sauce. This step, however, is optional.
When boiling add the basil leaves and blanch for less than a minute. Drain. In a blender or food processor, place the basil, pine nuts, walnut, garlic, Parmiggiano, and olive oil. Blend on high.
When all the ingredients are well blended, add the heavy cream, and give it a quick pulse.
If using the potato, place the cut potato in a large pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.
In a serving dish place the butter, the pesto, and add the cooked pasta. Add some of the water as you mix. The pesto should be of a nice light green color and the pasta should be moist. Generously grate Parmigiano cheese over the pasta.