Irene and Gianluca are 30 years old and they both come from Livorno, a port city on the west coast of Tuscany, Italy. They live now in Malmö, in the south part of Sweden with their son Leonardo.
When i asked Gianluca if he wanted to share a recipe on EAT IT ALIVE, he directly thought about pasta with pesto. It is a classic Italian dish and as a photographer he knew it would be a very photogenic recipe to shot. The funny thing is that they had actually never made pesto at home before. Which is not surprising since one can easily buy very good homemade pesto in Italian food stores. So here i was, sitting in a Swedish kitchen filled with basil fragrance, drinking Italian sparkling wine while talking about life, Italian conservative cuisine and Swedish versatile food culture. Those few hours felt like a warm summer night in a foreign country. Delightful !
Pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare which means to pound, to crush. It is a cold sauce originally coming from Genoa, the capital city
of Liguria, Italy. Making genovese pesto is a very ancient regional heritage. And that means a whole procedure to follow with very specific ingredients. Here comes all the rules on how to make homemade real deal pesto !
First of all, pesto is traditionally made in a marble mortar with a wood pestle. Forget about food processor or hand blender, it would give
a totally different result. Then comes the ingredients list. Italy has a long tradition of cooking and the quality of the local ingredients really make the difference. The original recipe calls for small leaves of Genoese basil DOP, extra virgin olive oil from the Ligurian Riviera, garlic, coarse sea salt, DOP Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and mediterranean pine nuts. DOP is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (literally “Protected Designation of Origin”). This certification ensures that products are locally grown by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods. But as usual there are the rules and what you make of it ! If all those products might be easy to find in Italy, it is different in Malmö. Gianluca and Irene used a marble mortar with a marble pestle, fine sea salt instead of coarse, larger basil leaves, a good extra virgin olive oil and walnuts instead of pine nuts. And the result was of course delicious ! You got my point, just make it work for you wherever you are and plan a trip to Genoa if you want an authentic real deal pesto experience.
— SERVES 4
50 G FRESH BASIL LEAVES
2 GARLIC CLOVES
A HANDFUL WALNUTS
7 TBSP PARMESAN CHEESE, GRINDED
3 TBSP PECORINO CHEESE, GRINDER
1/2 TSP COARSE SEA SALT
1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
500 G PASTA, PREFERABLY LINGUINE
1 - Start by preparing all ingredients. Peel garlic cloves. Grind parmesan and pecorino cheeses. Reserve. Rinse basil leaves under cold water. Place them on a kitchen towel to dry.
2 - In the mortar, crush garlic with coarse sea salt until they reach a creamy consistency.
Add walnuts and continue pounding with the pestle.
3 - Then add basil, one handful at the time. Crush with a gentle circular motion to release essential oils from the leaves. Add both cheeses and keep pounding.
4 - At last, slowly pour olive oil in the mortar while mixing. Taste with salt if needed.
Pesto is ready !
5 - Boil pasta. Drain them, saving some of the cooking water. Return to pot, combine with pesto and a bit of the reserved water. The starchy pasta water helps diluting the pesto to create a creamy sauce that stciks perfectly to the pasta.
Serve right away with fresh basil, grinded parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bon appétit !
Leftover pesto can be kept in the fridge in a airtight container. Make sure to cover the surface with olive oil to avoid oxydation and consume within 5-6 days. Pesto can also be frozen in small portions. In that case, oil is added only at the time of use.