Authentic Italian pesto: how to prepare and pair it!
If we say “pesto”, what do you imagine? Even if this term actually refers to a creamy sauce made in a mortar with a pestle, we know that you have certainly pictured the one and only authentic Italian pesto: the Genoese one! And it's not a case considering that this simple green sauce has become the second most widely used pasta sauce in the whole world. If you’re wondering how to make pesto cream sauce, we can assure you that it’s easier said than done. There are two ways of realizing it: the traditional Genoese way with the mortar and the easy way for those who don’t have much time. Are you ready to discover the authentic Italian pesto recipes?
Pesto cream: the famous green sauce
Pesto alla Genovese was invented in the 1800 by a monk who, using just the few ingredients offered to him by the pilgrims, obtained the first pesto cream: by simply pounding basil in a mortar with garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil he created a delicious cream that quickly became a milestone in the Italian culinary tradition.
The secret of pesto lies in the union of the ingredients: basil confers freshness, pine nuts give a sweet flavor and creaminess, garlic confers a strong character, parmesan cheese deepens the flavor and last but not least extra virgin olive oil melts and amalgamate all the ingredients thus creating a simple condiment loved by adults and children that gives a fresh herbal twist to countless dishes.
How to make pesto cream sauce according to the tradition
If you’re curious on how to make pesto cream sauce according to the tradition, you need to know that you need some time, patience and a good marble mortar! Originally, pesto was made by beating in a marble mortar fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. The word pesto itself, derives from the word “pestare”, meaning to beat in Italian. Even if today exist tons of kitchen tools, there are still a good amount of Italians that prefer using the traditional mortar rather than a food processor. The reasons why are two: to preserve this ancient tradition and because rotating the basil leaves among the mortar walls, they're not gonna smash, instead they'll free their essential oils creating a rich, deep flavor sauce with a beautiful, silky texture. Indeed, using a food processor can cause the basil to oxidize faster and to lose some of its aromatic properties, but to avoid this problem there are some tricks you can use.
Easy basil pesto cream sauce to save your time
If you don’t have a mortar at your disposal or simply don’t have much time, you can create an easy basil pesto cream sauce just with your blender adopting three tricks to make it as good as the authentic Italian pesto! The first trick is to use an immersion blender instead of a food processor: being more delicate it will maintain the flavor of your pesto fresher and sweeter. The second trick is to put the blades of your immersion blender in the freezer for 15 minutes to minimize basil leaves’ oxidation caused by heat. Last but not least, remember to wash the basil leaves, put them on a canvas to dry and then remove the whole stem to avoid your pesto to become bitter. At this point you just need to put the ingredients intermittently in a bowl and mix them with your immersion blender until obtaining a smooth and homogeneous cream. One last trick to preserve the pesto better and to avoid oxidation is to pour on its surface a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil.
Easy recipes with pesto perfect for summer
Whether you used the mortar or the immersion blender, now you are ready to discover some recipes using pesto! Being versatile, extremely flavored and creamy, authentic Italian pesto can be used to create many pasta dishes, here are some of our easy recipes with pesto:
- Trenette al pesto trenette are a narrow, flat pasta that is common in Liguria, where pesto originated, but if you can’t find them, linguine is always a good substitute. This type of pasta perfectly picks up pesto’s creamy consistency resulting in a harmony of flavors.
- Pesto lasagna hails from Liguria, as the most part of pesto dishes, it contains layers of pasta, pesto, béchamel sauce and is topped with some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese: delicious and the perfect alternative to meat lasagna.
- Gnocchi and pesto one of the most comforting meals that you can made up in just 10 minutes. Gnocchi are a type of Italian dumplings made with only mashed potatoes and flour and their simple taste makes them one of the best pasta shape for pesto.
- Pesto pasta salad the perfect dish for picnic or potlucks: pesto pasta salad is just a cooled pesto pasta enriched by adding any fresh ingredients you like, such as tomatoes and zucchini or potatoes and green beans, as the Ligurian tradition dictate.