Pesto and Parmigiano

In the realm of the fine palates the king of condiments is allied with the king of cheeses.

by Marcello Tripodo

I foresti che assazan o pesto no se ne van ciù da Zena (Strangers who taste the pesto, do not start anymore from Genoa).
In the Genoese slang pesto means   chopped basil, garlic and cheese (pecorino and parmigiano-reggiano), prepared in a mortar and dissolved in the oil.

It 'an absolute pride of Ligurian cuisine and the subject of endless discussions about its origin, which is one with basil, aromatic plant of which there is, since 2008, a "Consortium of Basilico Genovese".

There are countless versions of pesto both in Liguria and other regions.
Even France has its own recipe for the sauce pistou. In an overview of the Italian food there is typical gastronomic tradition that has a recipe for "pesto" vegetable. However the "Pesto alla Genovese" is the main, almost the progenitor of the genre. Thanks to its worldwide fame, was set up a World Championship pesto sauce in a mortar, the Genoa Pesto World Championship, which every two years awards the best pesto, among the hundred participants.

There are two basic variants: the one of "western" taste energetic simple, that of "Levante" with a lower proportion of garlic and the presence of elements of ingentilimento.

Pesto - although the modern gastronomic deliver him to often-blender should be absolutely prepared with marble mortar and pestle made of pear wood or boxwood - using the leaves of Genoese basil DOP in bloom, to soak along with good extra virgin oil of the Ligurian Riviera, sea salt, preferably of Cervia, pine nuts, pecorino Fiore Sardo aged 6 months and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

It can not stand prolonged storage, because the basil loses fragrance.



1 clove garlic

2 bunches of basil, leaves about 36 (relatively cool, private stem)

2 teaspoons grated Pecorino cheese and

2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese and seasoned

1 tablespoon pine nuts

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil from Liguria

1 teaspoon sea salt


First of all in the mortar is pounding the garlic and salt. When the mixture has amalgamated fit the basil leaves previously washed and dried.

It 'important that the pestle Dent not the ingredients on the bottom of the mortar, but moving in a circular motion on the walls dissolve them without violence and pastes them gradually and slowly.

After touching basil pine nuts and cheese. Finally, drop the oil drop by drop.


History and curiosity
With "good appetite" ritual, the "Pesto alla Genovese" offers some interesting - even if veloci- insights on influences and overlays featuring gourmet Italian cuisine, and particularly that of Parma.

In this case the presence characteristic of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the recipe of the pesto sauce. That beyond questions of taste and flavor, it has special historical and geographical roots that deserve to be remembered.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the culture of oil was not yet fully developed and in Liguria was born a different way of using the olive tree (no more for his wood, but its fruit), there were a lot of contact and contamination with neighboring Po valley.

In those days, Liguria, linked mainly to the fishing, it did not have certain foods that we find on our tables. There were products such as beef and pork and cheese, parmesan called today, in contrast to the relatively abundant in the d ell'Appennino. Just these products were acquired through the exchange of olive oil. Said the exchange was regulated by Mercuriali (price list established by the regulations for the sale of public markets), we will add that the exchange was based not only on the goods but also at work: the shepherds Parma, which during the winter brought the flock downstream or on the Ligurian coast, they took care of the collection and the milling of the olives at monasteries or Ligurian farmers. In exchange for their service they received no money but oil.

Around 1600 and until 1700, according to the cited Mercuriali (preserved in the State Archives of Genoa and Parma), the daily wage of an average worker corresponded to about 1.7 / 1.9 liters of oil. In more recent times if we wanted instead to make comparisons, always using olive oil as "currency", the pay of an average worker would be 0.05 liters in 1944, and 8.6 liters in 1994.

The origins of this vegetable sauce could be traced back to Roman moretum, consumed by the farmer Symilo, well spread on a cake [1] in the poem georgic Moretum, attributed to Virgil or Pseudo Virgil.
The recipe of Columella planned to crush in a mortar fresh cheese and salty cheese with savory, mint, rue, fresh leaves of coriander, celery, chives (or, failing that, spring onions), lettuce, arugula, thyme and catnip (catmint), fresh mint. After mixing well, it is mixed with vinegar and pepper and coat with oil.

So pesto and its variants disparate enliven the taste buds since ancient times.


[1] "On that day, therefore, thinking that went to take the garden, and the first thing, digging the earth lightly with your fingers, he took out four heads of garlic with their fibrous roots. Then he took some thin stalks of celery, the cold rue and coriander all quivering on thin stems. When he had collected these herbs cheerful sat by the fire, and loudly asked his slave a mortar. Then freed the garlic cloves from the casing knotty, then peel them off his hand contemptuously tossed to the ground, street sweeping it away from you; He kept his clean cloves, which sbollentò water then putting them in the hollow of stone. Here them sprinkled with salt and added cheese cured in salt, then she puts on all the herbs already known. He passed his left hand under the robe hairy groin and the right began to crush the garlic with the pestle by the intense smell, reducing to pulp the other herbs, which confused so their juices. His hand ran fast. Gradually each lost its green grass, and many colors made one just was not all green, because the white cheese rejected this color, but even remained white, as milk in contact with herbs lost his candor.
Often a whiff of pungent struck the nostrils of man, and his future room forced him to wrinkle her nose. Just as often, his hand was forced to dry their eyes watery as he furiously, he accused a smoke completely innocent.
The work was going well: the pestle not hopped over as before, but heavier, was dragged in slow circles. Now Symilo began to pour in the mixture, drop by drop, oil of olives Palladian, and sprinkles on the strength of a little 'of vinegar. Then again he stirred the mixture, and after having worked well took it out, cleaned thoroughly with two fingers mortar and finally molded it into a ball, to give it its original form and the name of moretum ... "

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