Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Pesto and Genoa memories

My Larousse Culinary Encyclopedia states that pesto comes from Genoa and I'm certainly not going to argue with that! I have actually been there, many years ago. The classic Italian pesto with basil, Parmesan and pine nuts is one of my favourite foods. Now that I have finally bought a new food processor, pesto for lunch is common in casa mia. The cookbook of my friend (Cafe)Sigrun is also to blame because she was killing me with pesto images while we were working on the manuscript. Her book has a classic recipe (different ratios than mine; there are endless versions out there) and a pumpkin seed pesto that made me go yum ... yum! Remember the scene in Julie and Julia when the editor was testing Child's recipe for boeuf bourguignon and rolled back her eyes in bliss? That's what I mean when I say yum ... yum! I promise to share her recipe in the autumn when the book has been published.

Back to Genoa. I arrived there via train from Zürich/Milan and grabbed a taxi to go to some tourist agency to buy a ferry ticket to Sardinia, as described in my travel guide (no Internet back then). The clerk looked at me with pity and said the guide got it all wrong; I should buy the ticket at the ferry port. (Stupid travel guide!) So I grabbed another taxi to go to the port and just missed a ferry - classic! Luckily it was a beautiful day and I remember sitting on steps at the port in the afternoon, reading and eating juicy peaches that I had bought at a market. Next to me were students from Milan (I was younger, only 18) and somehow I became part of their group without being part of it. I didn't speak Italian but it was as if they were looking after this lone Icelander sitting next to them. After all those years I still remember two friendly faces from that group; the two who spoke English. I wouldn't say I was insecure travelling alone but it was a long wait for a ferry and their company was comforting.

With a good food processor you don't ever have to use pesto out of a jar. I think many don't realise how easy it is to make and the beauty of pesto making is that you can change the ratio of ingredients: Want more olive oil? Use more oil! Want more Parmesan? Go for it! The reason why I use 60 grams basil is that I buy the leaves in a 30-gram bag and I get the texture I like. If we don't finish the pesto in one go I put the rest in a jar and add some olive oil before refrigerating. If you don't have a food processor you can use a mortar and pestle.


50 g pine nuts
60 g fresh green basil
35 g Parmesan
½-1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon fine sea/Himalayan salt
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
50 ml organic extra virgin olive oil

Lightly brown the pine nuts in a dry frying pan to bring out their flavour.

Before whizzing all the ingredients in a food processor, thinly slice the Parmesan cheese, and peel and coarsely chop the clove of garlic. While mixing/pulsing the ingredients, pour the olive oil slowly into the bowl, until the pesto thickens. (Depending on your food processor, you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice.)

Serve with e.g freshly baked baguette/bread and/or pasta, salmon or any other fish, meat or vegetables.

My idea for an easy-to-make lunch: I boil tagliatelle or linguine while preparing the pesto (I set the timer on al dente for the pasta). I let the cooked pasta drain while browning sliced mushrooms in light olive oil in a frying pan and add some sea salt. I top the pasta with the mushrooms and serve with pesto on the side.

Uppskrift á íslensku.


  1. I use a very similar recipe as yours (I sometimes reduce the pine nuts quantity). Nothing compares to homemade pesto. I love it with pasta and chopped red bell peppers.

    1. Honestly, I think I no longer really measure what goes into my pesto ;-) For me it has more to do with texture than taste because in my opinion pretty much all pesto tastes good, as long as it isn't too salty or doesn't have too much garlic.

      I also love adding sun-dried tomatoes (not from a jar) to the pesto and another type of pesto I love has pistachios in it.


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