The Original Pesto Recipe

Published in Liguria Recipes

A few years ago we were invited by Sanremo Promotion to see the city and wider province of Imperia in Liguria. As well as the wonderul old part of Sanremo called Pigna and a trip to Taggia to see the famous olive production, we were also taken to the Olive Oil Museum of Olio Carli in Imperia. Read a full report here.

We learnt recently from Urban Italy that Olio Carli has just opened an Emporio Carli in the city. The shop is selling a huge range of olive oils as well as typical food products such as sun-dried tomatoes, vegetables under oil and, of course pesto made with their olive oil.

Here’s the original documented pesto recipe dating back at least 150 years.


50g basil leaves, preferably the variety grown in Liguria and only small leaves from young plants, no stems; half a glass of extra virgin olive oil from Liguria; 6 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP cheese and 2 tablespoons of Pecorino DOP cheese; 2 Italian garlic cloves; 1 tablespoon pine nuts; a couple of granules of coarse salt.

making it

Use a marble mortar and wooden pestle. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

Wash the basil leaves with cold water and dry well with a clean cloth. Crush the garlic in the mortar. Add a couple of granules of salt and crush. Add about 30 basil leaves and crush.

The oils and aroma of the basil are in the veins of the leaves, so don’t be aggressive when crushing; use a gentle, rotating motion. Keep at it, adding a few more leaves at a time and the pine nuts, again not all at once! Add the cheese, one spoon at a time, alternating with a drizzle of olive oil until you’ve included all the ingredients.

Use it as a sauce for trofie, put some into a minestrone or try it instead of a stock cube in other dishes. Variations on the theme include substituting the basil with rocket or the pine nuts with walnuts.


Additional Info

  • Conversion Table: 1 lb (16oz) = 450 gr; 1/2 lb (8oz) = 225gr 1oz = 25gr; 1kg = 2lb 3oz; 500gr = 1lb 3oz; 250gr = 9oz; 100gr = 3.5oz; 1 teaspoon = 0.33 fl oz; 1 cup = 0.5 pints (8fl oz); 1 litre = 35 fl oz

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