Pesto alla Genovese
by Ed Boitano
By now, most of the world knows of PESTO. Though it
will never be as popular as pizza, its a convenient and tasty
sauce for a quick pasta dish, and seemingly every U.S. supermarket now
has rows of Pesto in jars lining its shelves.
My connection with this simple, but delectable sauce
goes back to a period pre-dating my memory. Much of my childhood was
spent in the kitchen of my immigrant grandmother who hailed from Liguria,
the province where Pesto originated. In her kitchen she taught me her
sacred family recipes from the hills above her beloved Genoa. My love
of cooking began in that kitchen and continues today. Pesto was part
of this experience: she would serve it as a first-course pasta dish,
generally over vermicelli.
Pesto alla Genovese is quite different from what is
found in the stores today. This store-bought pesto generally consists
of sweet basil, pine nuts, garlic and a low quality pure olive oil,
placed in a blender. Add a little Romano and Parmesan cheese and there
you have it.
Adelina Boitano Bogny
The real Pesto deal according to the Boitano
family consists of placing a small portion of sweet basil, walnuts
yes, a preference for many Genovese families - garlic, extra
virgin olive oil, non-salted butter, garlic, and a dash of salt and
pepper - into a mortar, where it is crushed and pounded into a
paste using a pestle. Pesto in Italian means pound or pestle.
The process is repeated a number of times. It aint easy. After
20-minutes, I would exclaim that this was too much work for my 12-year-old
arms. My grandmother who worked full-time as a seamstress
would laugh and say: Work? This is fun!
Meanwhile, the vermicelli pasta made by hand
would already be boiling in the pot. Once ready, we would drain
the vermicelli, and then pour a little cold water over the pasta to
stop the cooking process to keep it al dente. Pesto alla Genovese, like
most Italian dishes, is served warm, not hot. We would then delicately
toss the vermicelli with the Pesto, finally adding sweet cream
a surprise to many Americans to soften the taste. An equal portion
of Romano and Parmesan cheese would be added, and perhaps a dash of
salt if necessary to please the palate - my grandmother never owned
a single measurement utensil.
Pesto is always best when served fresh, but if making
a large portions it can be frozen. Just make sure you pour a layer of
olive oil over the top of the jar or container.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Adelina
Boitano Bogny: June 26, 1902 January 11, 1997
For one cup of Pesto alla Genovese
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup sweet basil
- 2 teaspoons garlic
- 1/4 cup Romano Cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup of cream