Pesto has been around forever, or at least since the sixteenth century, and it everyone has had their way with it ever since. The first recorded recipe for pesto was in 1863. Now-a-days pesto can mean anything mashed, muddled, or mixed together resulting a sauce or paste to be used on pasta, sandwiches or a myriad of other imaginative culinary applications. We love experimenting with ingredients to come up with tasty combinations, but sometimes we just want a classic.
Despite the long and varied history of the creation of pesto, Liguria is the birthplace of the highest quality Basilico Genovese and what we call“classic pesto”. Tucked behind the pastel painted beach towns that dot the coastline making the Italian Rivera, are valleys and meadowlands that give way to mountains. Thanks to it geographical largess, the climate is mild with abundant sunshine and sea breezes making the entire region ideal for basil farming. In the small village of Diano Castello, father and son Adolfo and Mattia are dedicated to the perfection of Basilico Genovese and supply us with our A.G. Ferrari Basil Pesto. Using exceptional ingredients and a maniacal attention to detail in processing, they grow their basil according to DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) standards. This means each step in the process, from farming to package, is regulated in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition ensuring authenticity and quality.
With its small tear-dropped shaped leaves, Basilico Genovese have the very short lifespan of only three months and a great deal of effort goes into to prepping the land for seeding. Fields are plowed deeply: harrowing and milling follow and then the ground is steamed at a very high temperature. Treating the soil with steam sterilizes soil and is better for the environment by eliminating the need for harmful chemicals. The result is a “soft” soil ready for seeding that is also better for overall growth of the plant. Fields are watered every twenty days concentrating the flavors in the plant so that at the time of picking the flavor is at its peak. Right before harvest the basil has an unmistakable scent of freshly cut grass and a sweet peppery taste. Our basil is cultivated in open fields and hand-picked, May through October under warm sun and salty ocean breezes—both of which are critical in making an outstanding pesto. The flavor profile of our basil pesto varies from batch to batch and every year because Mother nature has a heavy hand in the production. If the season is rainy, basil tastes saltier while the opposite is true if the season drier.
Once gathered, the basil is immediately washed and rinsed multiple times with constantly clean water. Cleaned leaves are dried and finely chopped.The rapidity of this operation avoids heating the leaves leaving the full flavor and bright green appearance intact. Sea salt and olive oil are then added to preserve the paste which is then refrigerated at constant temperature of 2° centigrade until time for addition of crushed pine nuts and cashews. Once the nuts have been added a surface layer of olive oil preserves the pesto eliminating the need for preservatives.
If you live in Liguria, basil pesto is in your blood. It is eaten often and can be found in any market and in many dishes in restaurants. While traditionally used as a condiment for pasta, its distinctive favor and intoxicating fresh scent makes it versatile. Add a dollop to dressing for salads or sliced tomatoes. Spread basil pesto on roast meat or grilled fish or veggies. Flavor polenta, frittatas, soups or bolded potatoes with it. But no matter what you do with basil pesto, make sure its roots are in Liguria and made by Mattia and Adolfo.