Where Pesto is King!

There are few dishes that recall the bel paese as easily as pasta with pesto alla Genovese, or pasta with basil pesto sauce. Perhaps one of the simplest and most deliciously fragrant sauces for pasta, even though pesto is made with only a few ingredients they must be of the highest quality. This is a traditional dish of the Liguria region of Italy, nestled in the northwest curve of the peninsula in what is referred to as the Italian Riviera. Genova, the historic capital of the region, is known as the birthplace of pesto.

Pesto comprises of fresh basil leaves, parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano cheese, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. Of course, every Ligurian family has their own secret to making pesto. Traditionally, however, all the ingredients are ground together one by one with a mortar and pestle, a process which takes much patience. Alternatively, in the modern method of preparation a food processor can be used to create the creamy consistency required, although traditionalists say this takes away from some of the aroma and bright green color of the basil.

Linguine with Pesto alla Genovese

Where is Liguria?

Curving softly between the Ligurian Sea and the Maritime Alps and tucked between the Cote d’Azzur and Tuscany, the Liguria region is home to some of the most idyllic and picturesque landscapes in Italy. The coastal strip is known for its mild climate, charm, and colorful, seaside villages, such as Portofino and Cinque Terre, which have risen to international acclaim. However, the Italian Riviera offers plenty of other vibrant or sleepy seaside villages for one to enjoy, along with some amazing gastronomic delights.

Beach days in Camogli (Liguria)

Is pesto all there is?!

Regional gastronomy features an array of Mediterranean flavors, fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs, as best exemplified by the use of pesto. Liguria is a region dominated by the sea and there are of course excellent fish dishes, such as marinated anchovies, cozze ripiene (or mussels stuffed with mussel meat, herbs, and bread crumbs), or grilled or braised sea bass and dorado simply prepared with herbs, olive oil and served with fresh vegetables. Veal, rabbit, and other wild game also make gastronomic appearances in rustic dishes. Pine nuts, chestnuts, and mushrooms grow wild in the northern hills and are readily incorporated into many recipes.  Pasta is a major part of the cuisine with trofie, a short pasta, and trenette, a linguine-like pasta, pairing perfectly with pesto alla Genovese.  If you like a good-but-cheap eat, Liguria has that as well. The most popular street food is farinata, a savory, very flat cake made with chickpea flour, water, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. It can be eaten plain or coated with, you guessed it, pesto!

Pesto’s creaminess, vibrant color, and delicate fragrance really make it a great addition to most dishes! Personally, I like to use a couple spoonfuls when I make minestrone (vegetable soup); it gives it depth and taste. And I do recommend visiting the Italian Riviera on your next trip for a taste of the untouched Italy!

**These words were originally written and published on https://cavavaplus.wordpress.com.

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