Classic Pesto Genovese Sauce

Classic Pesto Genovese sauce originates in Genova the capital of  Liguria, Italy. It is made using seven ingredients: fresh sweet basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, Pecorino cheese, garlic, rock salt and olive oil. In Italian, the word pesto means to crush and this how the sauce is produced, by crushing all the ingredients. To get the best flavour the basil leaves are crushed rather than pounded, to extract the flavourful oil from the leaf’s veins. So a wooden pestle is used with a marble or other hard stone mortar. A gentle circular action rather than a pounding one is required. A little extra effort and using the best quality ingredients that you can find will give you a delicious sauce that can be used in pasta dishes and to flavour soups.

IMG_20171218_104322-Pesto Genovese ingredients 3

Classic Pesto Genovese Sauce


  • 50 g small, sweet Basil leaves. The best and freshest leaves should be used, washed and dried thoroughly
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 Tblsp of good quality pine nuts
  • 6 Tblsp of grated Parmigiano  Reggiano cheese
  • 2 Tblsp of Pecorino cheese
  • rock salt
  • 100 ml best quality Extra Virgin Olive oil

IMG_20171218_105252-Pesto ingredients 4


  1. Place one garlic clove into the mortar with a couple of grains of rock salt and crush, using the wooden pestle, until it becomes creamy. Add the other clove and another grain or two of rock salt and crush until all the mixture has a creamy texture
  2. Add the pine nuts and crush them using a circular motion against the side of the mortar until they too are fully crushed and creamyIMG_20171218_110145-Pine nuts in pesto
  3. Now add the basil leaves a few at a time, using a long, gentle circular motion at the outer edges of the mortar that will extract the oil from the veins of the leaves. Gently crush, (do not pound the leaves) until they are fully crushed
  4. Then add the grated cheeses a little at a time using the same crushing motion until combinedIMG_20171218_111014-Adding cheese to Pesto
  5. Now add the Extra Virgin Olive oil a few drops at a time and continue till the oil is fully emulsified
  6. The pesto is now ready to use in your pasta dishesIMG_20171218_112405-Basil Pesto Homemade
  7. When making your pasta, save a little of the water from cooking the pasta. Do not heat the pesto but stir it into the cooked pasta adding the cooking waterIMG_20171218_134258-Spaghetti with pesto
  8. In Liguria, small cubes of potato and green beans are cooked with the pasta and the pesto is stirred into the cooked pasta and vegetables and served in warmed bowls
  9. To store, you can put the pesto into a clean jar with a layer of Extra Virgin olive oil over the surface to protect it from oxidisation.
  10. Alternatively you can place the pesto into ice cube trays with a drop of olive oil over the top of each cube and freeze until you need it

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