As per its original namesake, pesto alla Genovese is a sauce originating in Genoa, Italy. During the Middle Ages, Genoan cuisine commonly featured a predecessor of pesto known as agliata, a mashed paste of garlic and walnuts. It was not until the mid-19th century that basil was introduced into the modern recipe.
The best pesto pasta I’ve had was at a little trattoria in Rome. Since our return home from Italy, this has become one of our staple meals.
Adapted from Serious Eats.
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 30 minutes
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 3 ounces basil leaves, washed with water still clinging to the leaves
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Fiore Sardo
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced
- Coarse sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter (for sautéing mushrooms)
- 4 servings of your preferred fresh pasta
1) Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, combine garlic and sea salt and grind to a paste.
2) Add pine nuts and continue to crush or mix until a sticky, only slightly chunky, beige paste forms.
3) Add basil leaves, a handful at a time, and crush or mix. Continue until all basil leaves have been crushed to fine bits.
4) Add both cheeses, then slowly drizzle in olive oil, working it into the pesto until a fairly creamy, emulsified sauce forms. Add more oil, if desired.
5) Start cooking pasta as directed and in the meantime, prepare the mushrooms. Place sliced pieces into pan and sauté with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.
5) When done, add pesto sauce and mushrooms to pasta. Serve immediately.
👨🍳 Notes from Mr. Chuckles
The original recipe calls for a mortar and pestle for preparing the pesto. We used our food processor which ended up producing a grainier sauce that was a bit on the oily side, so cut down on the amount of olive oil if you’re opting for the food processor as well.
Fresh basil leaves are key. We usually like to prepare this dish during the summer months when we have our balcony herb garden in full bloom. Otherwise, a quality bunch from the grocery store will do.
As for the pasta, aim for al dente. Even consider undercooking to molto al dente if you wish to try doing a final cook directly in the sauce.