This Authentic Italian Pesto Recipe Is A Delicious Classic

This authentic Italian pesto recipe is simple to make with fresh basil and pine nuts and will be better than any pesto from a jar that you will ever taste.

authentic italian pesto recipe - Pesto alla Genovese

Amazing Pesto alla Genovese

Authentic Italian Pesto Recipe

After you enjoy this delicious basil pesto recipe (Pesto alla Genovese), you will never go back to that stuff from a jar ever again. This pesto recipe is simple, fresh and can be added to traditional pastas, like trofie, or put it on focaccia, chicken or really anything you would like. This recipe is versatile because you can use a mortar and pestle in the traditional method, which of course is best, or you can use a blender or food processor like I did.

The other great part of this pesto sauce recipe is that you can make alterations or improvements if you have difficulty finding some of the ingredients. Specifically, the recipe calls for sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, which might be a challenge to find in the US, so you can use the easier to find Pecorino Romano cheese.

Kitchen Tools And Cookware

We are proud to be an Amazon Affiliate, so If you are looking for some amazing products, please click on the links below as we have compiled a list of some of our favorite equipment. As an Amazon Associate, we at Saturdays In Rome earn commissions from qualifying purchases, but there are no added costs for you. For this recipe, and others, check out some of our recommended cookware and kitchen tools.

Pasta MakerGnocchi BoardPasta BoardRavioli Maker
Ravioli Press/StamperRicerBialetti Pasta PotBamboo Cutting Board Set of 3
Silpat Baking MatSantoku KnifeMeasuring Cups and SpoonsStainless Mixing Bowls
Dutch OvenMesh StrainersStainless ColanderStainless Steel Fry Pan

Authentic Italian Pesto Recipe Ingredient Descriptions

Making The Perfect Pesto Sauce Recipe

If you want to really kick this recipe up a couple of notches, and you are either in Italy or have access to an amazing Italian grocery store, here is what you need to make the perfect pesto. It is made with:

  • Basil leaves specifically from Pra’, a district in the west of Genoa, Italy

  • DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Ligurian Riviera

  • Vessalico garlic (Imperia), which is less strong in flavor and more easily digestible

The most important thing, if your goal is to be traditional, is to use a marble mortar and a wooden pestle.

authentic italian pesto recipe - basil

Start With Fresh Basil

Mixing Bowls

Only recently have a realized how great mixing bowls with lids are and these stainless steel beauties are amazing!

Using Trofie Pasta For This Pesto Recipe

Like traditional Pesto alla Genovese, Trofie pasta is from the Liguria region of Italy, and it is traditionally paired with classic basil pesto sauce, but with this recipe you can substitute easier to find, but equally delicious short pastas, like ziti, rigatoni, gemelli and even gnocchi. For me, the best pasta substitution is Strozzapreti, which has a similar shape and size, but also has a fun back story. It translates to Priest Strangler pasta.

Pesto Recipe With Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are the traditional nut to use in this pesto recipe, but I’ve seen other nuts recommended that might be a little easier to find albeit inauthentic. Some of these nuts can’t even be found in Italy, but some suggested substitutions are: walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts.

Pasta Pot with Strainer

Perfect for cooking pasta, this pot can be used to cook a range of meals you will love!

Cashews are also used as a cheaper substitute because they resemble pine nuts in color, texture and mild sweetness. You can find them in pre-made pesto if you check the ingredients in the cheaper versions.

The Battle: Mortar And Pestle vs Food Processor

There is no question that using a mortar and pestle is the traditional way to make Classic Basil Pesto. I have hesitated buying into the Mortar and Pestle trend (fad) because it wasn’t coming from a place of tradition and authenticity, rather it is promoted by hipsters and influencers. I don’t really have time for them, but I won’t deny it is how it should be done for Pesto. For me, the food processor does a more than adequate job.

authentic italian pesto recipe - Food Processor

I Prefer Using A Food Processor

The Search For Pecorino Sardo

Santoku Knife

The Santoku style knife is my favorite when I’m cooking and Victorinox makes a great one!

As mentioned above, this recipe calls for sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, a.k.a. Pecorino Sardo, which might be a challenge to find in the US. You have a couple options that will still make a delicious Pesto. You can use the easier to find Pecorino Romano cheese as a delicious substitute, but as you can tell from the name, it is from Rome and not Genoa, so the authenticity takes a hit. The other option would be to use only Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, adjusting the quantity of course. You might be able to tell from the pictures that I chose this solution to my problem of not being able to find a Sardinian cheese.

If you would like a free copy of this recipe in PDF format, please sign up for access to our Recipe Box which contains a growing list of amazing Italian recipes discussed on this blog, including this delicious recipe.

Authentic Italian Pesto Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium

  • Prep Time: 10 mins

  • Cook: 12 mins

  • Servings: 4

Fresh Pesto Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (350 grams) of Trofie Pasta

  • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

  • 1 ounce (30 grams) of Sardinian Pecorino Cheese

  • 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1/2 ounce (15 grams) of Pine Nuts

  • 2 ounces (50 grams) of Fresh Basil Leaves

  • 1 clove of Garlic

  • A pinch of coarse salt

Cooking Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot with water to the boil for the pasta.

  2. When the water boils, add the salt and lower the heat, but maintain the boil.

  3. Wash and dry the basil leaves and add them to a mortar.

  4. Pound the basil in the mortar.

  5. Add the pine nuts to the mortar, a few at a time, then add a roughly chopped clove of garlic and a pinch of coarse salt.

  6. Crush all the ingredients with the pestle and mix them well.

  7. Combine the cheeses and mix everything in the mortar.

  8. Finally, pour the oil into the mortar and mix well.

  9. Cook the pasta al dente.

  10. Pour the pesto into a bowl and add a spoonful of the pasta cooking water with a 6 ounce ladle to make it creamier.

  11. Drain the pasta and add it to the pesto.

Pesto Serving Suggestions

Add the pasta and pesto to a serving bowl and put a little freshly grated Parmigiano on top and then add a few whole basil leaves for decoration. Although it might be a little redundant at this point, you can also drizzle Olive Oil over the top as well.

Previous Recipes That Might Interest You

If you enjoyed this authentic Italian Pesto recipe, then here are some previous recipes that you might want to try:

authentic italian pesto recipe - Done

Fresh Basil Pesto

Similar Posts