How to Make the Perfect Italian Pesto Sauce

A guide to Italian pesto sauce: from ingredients to cooking techniques, learn how to make pesto as they do in Italy.

Frank Sinatra just loved it, and for his 75th birthday he signed a line of Italian products featuring pesto. It’s the 90s, and we have to thank The Voice for exporting this special, until then unknown, dressing to the United States: from that moment on, the fragrant Italian sauce, of Ligurian origins, became destined to conquer kitchens everywhere, and even see new upgrades and variations.

To check if your pesto recipe is authentic, you need to take a close look at the ingredients: basil and garlic (yes, if there is no garlic, it’s certainly not a true recipe for foodies). The secret to pesto is in the kind of basil you use, and of course it must have garlic in it, even if some starred-kitchens make a light pesto with less olive oil among everything else. Pesto, in Italy, refers to sauces crushed by using a mortar.

How to Make the Perfect Italian Pesto Sauce

Genoa’s pesto highlights basil as its prime ingredient: as it befits tradition, and when possible, small leaves from a specific place called Prà, basil that now is also PDO. Its aroma takes over the wind, the rocks, and water: typical elements of the Ligurian coast. The other certified ingredients for this recipe are: pine nuts, rigorously Italian, grated Grana cheese, Pecorino from Sardinia, garlic from Vessalico, a particularly sweet variety from the province of Imperia, sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil from Liguria. There is no questioning the method: you must use a mortar, and make circular movements while adding some salt to the leaves.

Nowadays, you see people using a blender, but you must know that the heat coming from the blades ruins the leaves, takes out their beneficial oils, and makes for a darker sauce. To avoid this from happening, you can add two ice cubes into the blender just after you’ve added basil: the ice will prevent the heat and will keep the sauce lighter by preventing oil from getting absorbed.

It’s true that there are many pesto variations in Southern Italy where some add almonds, mint, capers, dried tomatoes. However, Italians admit that real pesto comes from Genoa. You can eat it with trofie, trenette – typical Ligurian pastas – or add a spoonful to your minestrone for a touch of Italian cuisine.

And now, here we are with the true Italian Pesto Sauce recipe. Enjoy it!

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