As we said in the video shot with Gabriele Mariotti, young manager of la Bossa, a cozy wine bar and restaurant in the very center of Camogli, pesto for Ligurians is not a recipe, it’s a religion!!!
You can find thousands of descriptions about how to make a pesto sauce but if you really want to follow the ligurian tradition you have to make an extra effort. Pesto, like most of the Italian cuisine recipes is the result of a lucky geographic position, a varied peasant tradition and a lot of creativity. Liguria can count on a sweet climate particularly favorable for vegetables cultivation: a lot of their dishes in fact are based on fish and seasonal vegetables.
The Ligurians use for their pesto only baby basil leaves which give the sauce its distinctive light green color that industries imitate by adding extra ingredients, most of which are much less noble and pure.
The other secret is the marble mortar combined with the wooden pestle…and above all a good amount of patience and time. The reason why these tools are important is that steel takes away part of the aroma released by the ingredients. I can testify that the result is worth the effort because my grandmother was a Ligurian housewife and I’ve spent as a child enough time in her kitchen during my summer holidays, watching her beating and crushing with her heavy mortar the pesto I was going to have for lunch.The floors, the kitchen table, the sink and the mortar, everything was made of marble, probably thanks to the nearby Carrara quarries, who provided such a noble stone even for simple houses.Nothing like marble gives such a sense of coolness and cleanliness during hot summers and it was an indescribable pleasure to walk around the kitchen barefoot trying to steal something to munch waiting for lunch to be ready.
So I suggest you to put your trusty robot away and postpone your gym session to another day: your not going to need one at the end of the preparation!!!
2 bunches of basil (small leaves, small leaves, small leaves!!!)
1 small handful of pine nuts
1 (or ½ if you are planning to date somebody in the next few hours) garlic clove (better crushed with the garlic crusher)
½ teaspoon of coarse salt
1 handful of grated cheese (2/3 parmesan cheese, 1/3 pecorino cheese)
extra virgin olive oil (enough to make the sauce nice and creamy)
I deliberately omitted the exact weights of the ingredients: I believe it’s necessary to develop a certain sensitivity to the way you balance the components, especially when it comes to simple preparations, based on the genuineness of the ingredients involved.
Pick the small leaves from the bunches, wash them quickly with iced water and dry them thoroughly (they have to be very dry) trying not to squeeze them. Put part of them in the mortar with the coarse salt (it has the function to help the shredding process so don’t use normal salt) and start grinding with your pestle. When you are half the way to the amount of leaves you have, add the pine nuts, the garlic and keep on grinding. After you’ve exercised your biceps for a good 10/15 minutes, pour a little of olive oil (I’ll never get tired saying “ good olive oil”, it’s a row sauce, you’re going to perceive it if it’s not good!!). You’re almost there, add your grated cheese, mix with a pestle a little more, some more E.V.O and the magic is done. If you want to preserve it for a while (a couple of days or even for dinner) put it in a small jar, making sure there is no air in between and cover it with oil otherwise it will oxidize and get dark. When you cook your pasta put the pesto in a large bowl and mix it with a couple of kitchen spoons of that boiling water to make it a little more smooth.
Ligurians also mix their pesto with “quagliata” which is a sour, fresh cheese, difficult to find in other countries and even in other regions in Italy… I would not experiment with strange options!!!! Pesto has such an intense, delightful taste that doesn’t really need any further adds.
Enjoy, let me know how successful you’ve been with this recipe!