ME & YOU Pizza: Mozzarella, artichokes, pancetta romana (becon), fresh zucchini, pesto genovese.
Pesto, history and preparation
Pesto is is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto genovese), and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino cheese.
The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.
The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated hard cheese (a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino or just one of the two), and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. Each family from Liguria often has its own pesto recipe with slight differences to the traditional pesto alla Genovese recipe. This is the main reason why pesto recipes often differ from each other.
Pesto is traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. First, garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then the washed and dried basil leaves are added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino added. To help incorporate the cheese a little extra-virgin olive oil is added. In a tight jar (or simply in an air-tight plastic container), covered by a layer of extra-virgin olive oil, pesto can last in the refrigerator up to a week, and can be frozen for later use.