Pesto Genovese recipe

From all the pesto recipes out there, Pesto a la Genovese is probably the most traditional, the one that comes to everyone’s mind when thinking about Italy and pasta with pesto sauce.

It is also an incredibly simple recipe which anyone can prepare. No matter how well you do in the kitchen, you can sure make pesto sauce in just a few minutes with this recipe.

As it happens with any recipe, the end results will only be as good as the ingredients you put into it. But in this case getting good ingredients is even more important, as the recipe requires no cooking, and therefore the flavors must come from the raw ingredients. Talking about ingredients, this will be your shopping list to make the traditional Genovese Pesto Sauce:

List of ingredients

  • Fresh basil leaves
    80 Grams (g)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    150 Grams (g)
  • Garlic cloves
    1 Units
  • Pine nuts
    30 Grams (g)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil
    150 Grams (g)
  • Salt

Fine Parmigiano, Pine nuts, virgin Olive oil… some of these ingredients are not cheap, but you must remember pasta doesn’t have to be an easy-to-make solution for people who don’t know how to or are lazy to cook. A good pasta dish can be as delicious as any other recipe, and trust us, this pesto is nothing like the pre-made pesto sauces you can find in the supermarket.

Actually, pesto sauce is probably one of the sauces where the difference between home-made and industrial is the biggest. Again, one of the reasons is probably the fact that all ingredients remain raw.

Moving on. Now that you have all your ingredients ready, it’s time to prepare the sauce. We promised anyone could it, and as you can see, we weren’t joking! It takes only 3 easy steps to make a delicious Pesto a la Genovese.

Steps to make Pesto Genovese recipe

  1. Wash the basil leaves

    Wash the basil leave and drain them very well. You might even want to use a paper tower to remove any excess water.

    This is important because olive oil will not mix with water, and therefore with the basil leaves if they are still wet.

  2. Chop ingredients together

    Put the basil leaves in the chopping bowl together with the parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic. Blend for approximately 20 seconds. (Blending time might vary depending on your blender, chopping bowl, and desired texture of the pesto sauce).

  3. Add olive oil and mix

    Pour the mix into a bowl and add the olive oil and salt. Emulsify until you get a smooth and consistent texture.

To serve pesto sauce simply pour the resulting mix on top of your already cooked pasta. Do not add the sauce to the pasta while it’s still cooking, or cook it in any other way. If you so it will quickly loose it’s vibrant green color and most of its flavor.

What types of pasta does Pesto go with?

Pesto is usually combined with unstuffed pasta, usually long-cut, like fettuccine or spaghetti, or ribboned, like fusilli.

The reason is to either allow the pesto to either lodge inside the folds of the pasta (in the case of fusilli) or to mix in between the elements while you roll them on you fork (like in the case of the spaguetti or fettuccine).

What else does pesto go with other than pasta?

If you’ve made pesto sauce to spare, or if you are craving the taste of fresh basil, garlic and parmesan but don’t feel like eating pasta, you can also use your pesto sauce on salads, toasts, sandwiches, replacing tomato in some pizzas, or just as the delicious sauce that it is to go with your favorite appetizers and dips.

How long will your pesto sauce be good for?

If you’ve made too much pesto sauce, don’t worry, the fact that the raw ingredients are mostly covered in olive oil plays in you favor. Jut put your sauce in a taper ware, or in a bowl covered with plastic film and put it in the fridge. The sauce will remain good for 7 to 10 days. You might notice that its green color darkens quickly, but that is only the top layer. When you are ready to use it again simply mix it all together and it will regain its bright color.

If you are not going to consume all the pesto sauce within 7-10 days, you can also freeze it and keep it in the freezer for months. Just remember NOT to put it in the microwaves to unfreeze, simply take it out of the freezer and leave it on the counter at room temperature. It will take 2-4 ours to unfreeze, depending on the size and shape of the container. If you put it in the microwaves, even on defrost mode, the ingredients will start cooking and the vibrant green color, together with a bit part of the flavors that make pesto delicious, will be gone.


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Hi there! My name is Estelle Ducommun. I’m a French foodie who is not afraid to admit that Italian cuisine is out-of-this-world! I love how simple, yet delicate and delicious some Italian recipes can be. I hope I can share a few recipes with you here, and maybe some fun facts about pasta and pizza that you might not know. Let’s get cooking!

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