Pesto, also known as battuto Genovese, is a simple, yet superb sauce found in traditional Italian cuisine. The first written record of a pesto recipe dates back to the late 1800s, but is thought to have originated during the 16th century in Genoa, in Italy’s northern region. Traditionally, it is made up of crushed garlic, fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan Reggiano, and extra-virgin olive oil. The word pesto refers to how the sauce is authentically prepared with a mortar and pestle. Both pesto and pestle are derived from the word pestare which means to grind or crush.
Though pesto seems to have had a long history, moretum, the sauce that pesto is thought to have descended from, dates back to somewhere between 70 and 19 B.C. and was even described in a verse attributed to the great Roman poet, Virgil. Moretum was a green paste made of cheese, garlic, and herbs.
Today, one of the most popular uses for pesto is as a sauce for pasta, but it can also be used as a salad dressing, dip, or spread. Additionally, it is a delightful accompaniment to steak, poultry or fish.
Though we don’t go as far north as Genoa on our Tuscany Food & Wine Tour, we would highly recommend making an additional stop either before or after the tour to try what is sure to be the best pesto of your life. Or if you’re looking to try your hand at creating this exquisite sauce at home, our Alumni Ambassador and Tour Operations Manager, Kris, shares her no-fail, sure-to-please pesto recipe below:
Easy Pesto Recipe
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
Place all contents in a food processor and mix until well blended. Taste and adjust to your liking.