More than in Liguria, Pesto Genovese most likely has its roots in in ancient Rome, in the compound called "moretum", mentioned by Virgil in his texts, prepared with herbs, garlic, oil, vinegar and fresh cheese, and ground in a mortar, to which were added, in some cases, even nuts. Later, in the Middle Ages, a garlic sauce was developed, made from chopped walnuts and garlic, which is considered one of the ancestors of pesto. But to get to the version that we have now, we had to wait until the nineteenth century, specifically in 1865, when the official recipe appeared for the first time in the book of the Ratto brothers, "Cuciniera Genovese", with the definition of "chopped garlic and basil".
The Traditional Recipe
Since then, the traditional formula has not undergone noticeable changes, although you can find some variations, such as the addition of boiled potatoes and green beans.
The preparation of an authentic "Pesto alla Genovese" still requires the inevitable marble mortar and pestle, which is essential for a perfect sauce. As for the basil, you must use the
“D.O.P.” (Protected Designation of Origin) Genoese variety characterized by an intense aroma, a soft color and oval leaves of small to medium size. Purists, use the basil from Pra', which has been grown since ancient times in the zone of the same name in the Ligurian capital.
As far as extra virgin olive oil, traditional recipes recommend "Riviera Ligure", also of Protected Designation of Origin, and Vassalico garlic typical of the province of Imperia.
Not to mention coarse salt, pine nuts and parmesan, or in the alternative, pecorino. After carefully choosing ingredients, the procedure is so accurate that the Consortium of Pesto Genovese reserves the label of "Pesto alla Genovese" only for those who strictly respect it.
Confirming the popularity of this tasty and delicious sauce, every two years since 2007 the city of Genoa has hosted the World Championship of Pesto Genovese, a competition that draws participants from around the world and welcomes a jury composed of international gastronomic experts. United States, France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, Finland, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Japan: These are many of the contestants who hace arrived to confront the masters of pesto, Ligurian citizens who have guarded the secrets of this sauce, the jewel of the local cuisine, for generations.