The Original: Pesto Alla Genovese

Whereas Pesto alla Genovese may represent a quick way to a great meal to most of us, to me it also brings back an instant flood of pictures and sensory impressions from Genoa’s beautiful Mercato Orientale where, I believe, any food lover will feel like they have come to the one place where all good things have come together and they certainly do not – ever – have to go further.

Why Pesto alla Genovese reminds me of it? I am not entirely sure, but I guess it’s because it is just the ultimate Ligurian food. So make sure to use beautifully soft Ligurian olive oil, it will make your pesto a hundred times better!

I also recommend that you use „real“ Genovese basil which at least in Berlin you can get in some supermarkets, but should you have trouble getting a hold of it, use young, soft leaves of sweet basil.

On the other hand, I believe you can easily skip the garlic. I, personally, think that even a small portion of garlic tends to over-power the otherwise soft and well-balanced dish, but that is obviously a question of personal taste. Should you prefer adding garlic, be careful with the proportions, or you will easily end up with a garlic pesto rather than Pesto alla Genovese.

As to the technical side, the original method of making Pesto alla Genovese is by pounding the leaves in a stone mortar with a wooden pestle. However, you can obtain a pretty similarly good result (in a much shorter time) by using a blender. The secret trick really is to ensure that all the ingredients and kitchen tools you are using are quite cold when you prepare the pesto.

And if you have already made the pesto and are now wondering: what next? – check out my next week’s post for a simple recipe for pasta with Pesto alla Genovese.



  • 2 bunches of Genovese basil, leaves picked off
  • 35 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into small dices
  • 10 grams of pine nuts
  • Optional: 1/2 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt
  • 15 grams of Pecorino Romano, cut into small dices
  • 60 ml of Ligurian or another soft-tasting extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put the bowl and the blades of the food processor that you are going to use into the freezer at least 30 minutes before starting with preparing the pesto. Likewise, put the basil into the refrigerator.
  2. Then, start by putting the parmesan, the pine nuts, the basil leaves and, optionally, the garlic in the food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until roughly chopped.
  3. Then add the salt and pecorino cheese. Pulse again for roughly 1 minute until more finely blended (but not entirely smooth), then slowly add the olive oil while blending.
  4. Continue blending until you have a creamy pesto (tiny bits of cheese can still show).

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