Classic Pesto Genovese Recipe

The lifeblood of Liguria, pesto genovese is made according to specific instructions. However, that doesn’t stop it having as many variations in Liguria as there are nonnas to make them. This is Italy after all, where family tradition is sacred and the recipes become well-guarded secrets. Equally so, choose your accompanying pasta wisely – Ligurians only allow their eponymous sauce tossed with linguine, trofie and corzetti. 

The first mention of basil-based pesto is from Giovanni Battista Ratto’s cookbook “La Vera Cuciniera Genovese,” published in 1863. Since then, an official recipe has been created by the state of Liguria, comprised of seven ingredients all produced within the region. These ingredients are basil (specifically DOP Genovese), extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, pecorino, pine nuts, garlic and salt. 

There are those who will argue that true pesto genovese can only be made in a pestle and mortar, however, if you only have a blender to hand we won’t tell anyone – just be sure to check the consistency regularly


If using a pestle and mortar:

Crush a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt
Once creamy, add pine nuts and crush to mix
Add the basil leaves (the perfect ratio is one clove of garlic for every 30 basil leaves)
Add a handful of each cheese and mix in
Finally, add the olive oil until you reach the desired consistency

If using a food processor:

Add all ingredients other than olive oil and salt
Blitz, slowly adding olive oil until you reach your desired consistency
Salt to taste