Basil. Its smell triggers summer memories.
Dark blue sea, tiny and pebbly beaches, 'caruggi' (the very narrow streets of Liguria towns), dry walls covered with bougainvillea flowers, lemon trees and... family meals.
As a kid, I was lucky enough to spend almost every summer in Riviera Ligure, my father's homeland. Visiting relatives and having dinner with them was part of the holiday program as much as swimming, sunbathing and bead necklace making. We used to have focaccia or farinata, and pasta with home made pesto sauce (as you probably may know, pesto originated in Liguria - Genoa, to be precise - and consists of basil leaves crushed with garlic, pine nuts and parmesan cheese)
We love to honour this kind of family traditions so, as soon as we arrived for our two weeks holiday, my cousin C. invited us to dinner and offered to make some home made pesto sauce.
Since my daughter M. got ill on the very first days of our stay, we had to rearrange our plans as well as our family menu.
I still craved for my home made pesto, though, so I had my mother walk into the kitchen with a bunch of basil leaves and teach me how to make pesto.
I had made several attempts in the past, but none of the outcomes met the high quality standards I was used to.
I needed advice.
And even though my mother is not very 'orthodox' in the method (she doesn't use a marble mortar and pestle as it should be, but a more trivial food processor) she is pretty good at it.
Anyway you'll probably find as many pesto recipes as people living in Liguria and Genoa, plus the ex-pat people who moved from there, namely to North America and Argentina, since the early decades of XXth century.
The following is our own family pesto recipe. And we are quite happy to share it with you, please leave a comment, I'd love love to hear about your family traditions...or variations of pesto recipes!
basil leaves: 45 gr (a small bunch - stem and leaves- approximately, see first picture above)
garlic: 1 tiny clove
pine nuts: 40 gr
parmesan cheese: 50 gr – freshly grated
extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoons
salt: 2 piches or more, according to taste
n.b: the amount above will provide 2 small jars (70 gr each) of pesto sauce. Use one jar for a 4-serving 'pasta al pesto'.
Pluck the basil leaves off from their sprigs and wash them carefully (if you grow your own basil remember you should pluck only the heads off the plant, best before the blooming time)
Peel the garlic and remove central core.
In the small bowl of a food mixer mince and mix together pine nuts and garlic.
Add three tablespoons of parmesan, a handful of basil leaves and one tablespoon of oil in the food processor bowl. I suggest to add a few of the ingredients at a time, and pulse a few times, so that the ingredients will collapse and free up more space for the next ones. Repeat this operation several times until you use up all the ingredients.You should get a smooth and moist pesto sauce.
Pour the pesto sauce into two small glass jars and cover with some olive oil, a few pine nuts and a basil leaf. Cover with film. Store in the fridge (it will last up to one week) or freeze for later use.