Pesto is an Italian staple that dates back hundreds of years. Although the first whisperings of a pesto-like sauce suggested pesto was of Persian origin, no one knows for sure. We do know that the Romans used to eat a paste called “moretum” which was made by crushing cheese, garlic, and herbs together, similar to pesto. Some believe that pesto was likely an evolution to “salsa di noci” (i.e., walnut sauce) which was known to have existed in the Middle Ages; however, it wasn’t until 1860 that a recipe for pesto, very similar to the recipe we know today, was published in Giovan Battista Ratto’s cookbook, La Cuciniera Genovese (i.e., the Cooking of Genova).
It is generally agreed upon that the pesto we know today, traditionally made with parmesan cheese, basil, pine nuts, and olive oil, originated in Genova. The word “pesto” comes from “pesta”, or “to pound”, referring to the original method of creating the sauce, by using a mortar and pestle.
Today, there are very strict rules for creating pesto, both for ingredients and for preparation methods. This recipe was acquired from a professional Italian chef of more than 20 years in a small town in Northern Italy; therefore, this recipe is indicative of Northern Italian pestos, as it uses butter and oil; conversely, traditionally Southern pestos use only olive oil.
Servings: 6 cups
300 grams or 6 cups basil leaves, washed and dried
30 grams or 2 tablespoons butter
30 grams or 1/4 cup pine nuts
1-2 garlic cloves (optional, to taste)
Pinch of salt
1.5 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup or 125 milliliters Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more to taste
Combine the basil, butter, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and cheese in a food processor. Slowly add olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Add more oil to make the pesto thinner, depending on your preferences.
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