Warning: this basil pesto bears absolutely no resemblance to any pesto you’ve even eaten from a jar. The traditional pesto of Genoa is tangy (basil, garlic), nutty (pine nuts), salty (Pecorino) and fabulously slithery (plenty of extra-virgin olive oil).

40gm basil leaves (ideally home-grown)

120gm Pecorino cheese (or similar, such as Parmesan), grated or cut into small chunks

1 clove garlic, chopped

60gm pine nuts (cashew nuts could also be used)

Extra-virgin olive oil

A good quality food processor

To serve: cooked trofie pasta (green beans and chopped potatoes optional)


This is a traditional dish of Genoa, capital of Liguria, and it’s one of the simplest, and most delicious, recipes I know. Throw all the dry ingredients into the processor. Pour in a good few glugs of olive oil. You need enough oil to allow the processor to combine the ingredients. Keep pulsing until all the nuts and cheese have been ground up. It’ll take a few minutes.

Meanwhile, boil up some pasta (trofie is traditional, but spaghetti works well too). Traditionalists will also add a few cooked green beans and small chunks of potatoes to the pasta. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the hot pasta water to help combine the pesto. Throw the pesto into the pasta and stir well. That’s it. Unbelievably simple, and so good.

For more on Italian food, see my posts on Italian heritage foods, and food and wine in Tuscany

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