“Pesto alla Genovese sauce” recipe: ten tricks for the best result

Buon giorno a tutti! Now that I am back to my routine, I catch myself thinking about my Italian vacation pretty often, and of course many of these memories are about food and one in particular sounds perfect for this time of the year: my family’s “Pesto Alla Genovese sauce” recipe, which my mom prepared for us right after having harvested her beautiful basil from her garden.

Before starting with ingredients and method, I should share with you those 10 simple tricks that would make your pesto the best one ever: the whole point, of course, is using the fresher basil possible,  but there are other factors that would help your sauce to be more tasty and bright, avoiding it to turn darker and sour:

  1. If you grow a garden, harvest your basil only few minutes before preparing the sauce;
  2. If you can choose, use basil with small leaves, or big and large leaves but avoid the type with long and narrow leaves because it tastes a little like mint;
  3. I know it sounds gross, but if you grow your own basil and don’t use chemical, don’t rinse the leaves under water because you will loose a lot of its taste and perfume. You can  just  pat gently the leaves with a clean cloth trying not to break them: the more you press, the more you’ll ruin the leaves, more likely your basil will get black spots (oxidize) and give your pesto a sour aftertaste.
  4. Even if the ancient would use a mortar and pestle to prepare the sauce (which for sure will be the more authentic way to prepare it), it’s ok to use the food processor. BUT – always to contain the chances of oxidation – keep the food processor’s blade in the refrigerator or freezer for at least half an hour before preparing your sauce.
  5. Use only coarse salt: it will help the chopping process.
  6. Don’t process the sauce too much: it has to be crumbly and not too smooth. And be fast at preparing it: one of the causes of oxidation is the exposition to oxygen… the faster your work, the less chance you have to oxidize your sauce.
  7. Commonly the Genovese pesto requires the use of pine nuts, but don’t be surprise if you’d hear from other Italians that you should use walnuts instead: every Italian family has – in the years – modified the original recipe.
  8. Commonly Pesto sauce requires Pecorino cheese as main ingredient, but personally I prefer using  only Parmesan, or possibly Parmesan and Pecorino. Your choice, follow your taste!
  9. If you can, take away the interior part of the garlic clove (in Italy we call it the garlic “soul”), because that part itself is a little sour and would leave that taste to the sauce.
  10. Use the best Extravergin olive oil available: the sauce is raw, so the taste of the oil will not be covered by anything. The best the oil tastes, the best your pesto will taste as well!

Now that I’ve annoyed you with my mom’s tip for the best pesto sauce ever, here the ingredients to dress about 1.5 lbs of pasta or 6-8 pasta servings (P.S. I had to spy on her and force her to weight the ingredients because – of course – she always eyeballs those!!!)

INGREDIENTS for a sauce which would dress 6-8 servings of pasta

1 pinch (about 10 gr. – 0,3 oz.) coarse salt

about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.) fresh basil

2 garlic cloves peeled an deprived of the “soul”

about 3.5 (100 gr.) parmesan (or half parmesan half pecorino)

about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.)  extravergin olive oil

about 1 oz. (30 gr.) pine nuts


In your food processor with a freezing cold blade, place IN ORDER the basil, garlic and coarse salt and nuts first: chop intermittently for few second (the heat of the food processor could oxidize the basil). 

Next add the pecorino or parmesan grated or cut in cubes and keep chopping until your sauce looks even but still crumbly (again, chop intermittently, few seconds at a time).

Only at the end pour the olive oil a  little at a time, activate the food processor for a few seconds. And you are done.. dress your pasta… and enjoy this deliciousness!


TIPS:  – IF YOU HAVE TO, you can store the fresh made sauce in a sealed container for not more than 2-3 days making sure the top of the sauce is completely covered by a layer of olive oil.

– The sauce can be frozen, and should let thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature (no microwaves please!).

– Pesto sauce can be used also on top of pizza, or with bruschetta. There are really many ways to eat it!

– In LIGURIA (the Italian Region where pesto tradition comes from), they sometimes dress the pasta with both tomatoes sauce and pesto. OMG it’s delicious!

– Always in LIGURIA they cook the pasta (usually the short kind called “trofie” – see picture below) with potatoes cubes and green beans, and when cooked they mix it with Pesto sauce…. OMG this is even better!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What’s your favorite or traditional pesto recipe?

I hope my (or better, my mom’s) little tricks will help you mastering you pesto sauce! 

I really hope you liked my recipe this week, and if you did, please  share it, like it, and support my blog! And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to subscribe: it’s completely free and you will receive my (almost) weekly recipe directly at your email address!





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8 thoughts on ““Pesto alla Genovese sauce” recipe: ten tricks for the best result

  1. I always make pesto myself as it is so much better than store-bought. My recipe is almost exactly the same as your mother’s. I also love pasta with green beans, potatoes and pesto — in Liguria this is also done with trenette (more or less fresh linguine). Or even better lasagne alla genovese, with zucchini and pesto. The taste is better with mortar and pestle, but it is a lot of work. I did a comparison: https://stefangourmet.com/2013/03/29/homemade-pesto-man-versus-machine/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely post. I have to make blenderfuls of pesto because it’s my husband’s favorite food. He could eat it on ice cream! So I make mine without cheese and freeze in jars, then I add cheese as necessary when making a dish. But it’s also handy to use without the cheese, for a strong basil flavor.

    Liked by 2 people

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