Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pestle, Presto, Pesto

Today I'm hunkered down at home, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to hit, but a week ago I was with friends in Genova, eating the best pesto I've ever eaten in my life.  I'd gone to Genova for the Travel Blogger Elevator 2012 conference where I spoke on my blog.  I'd saved a few days for myself.  I'd planned to go around the area, travel perhaps to Portofino or La Spezia.

 Instead I liked Genova so I decided to stick around.  And my friends, Anna, Nicola, and Paola, along with Paola's dog whose name I can't spell, met me at the Piazza de Ferrari.  I thought we were going to be heading right to Boccadasse - a nearby fishing village.  But they had other ideas. 

They wanted to have lunch at il Genovesse where chef and ower Roberto Panizza, founder and judge of the International Pesto Association, was said to make some of the best pesto in the world.   In fact I was told that if we were lucky he might make it right at our table.

When we got there, Roberto greeted us.  And, alas, we weren't so lucky because he didn't have time to demonstrate the making of pesto.  He apologized profusely.  He was very busy and he had just done a demonstration.  He wished he'd known we were coming.  But there is something I've learned about Italians - something that endears them to me even more.  They often say that they can't do something.  It's impossible.  They wish they could.  They hold their fingers to their chests, lamenting their inability to please us.   And then they do it anyway.

Thus it was with Roberto.  He was very busy.  He didn't have time, but he did the pesto demonstration anyway.

First he brought out the mortar and pestle and an assortment of ingredients that he'd put in his pesto.  This included pine nuts and garlic from a particular region in Italy.  Vessilicca.  It had to be garlic from Vessilicca.  He ground these, removed them.   

Next he smashed basil (a lot of basil) with extra virgin olive oil, blended it with parmesan cheese and a special smoked Sardinian peccorino (had to be from Sardinia). 

And then voila.  The pesto.  Tasted it.  Couldn't quite believe how good it was.  Roberto suggested we ate it with gnocchi which we did.  The rest is history, including the fried milk desert, and various wines, and a chestnut soup that I thought I would die over. 


  1. Ah Genoa memories...I'm saving my championship jar for a special occasion, but confess to also being a little pestoed out after that week, believe it or not! Marco at Hotel Amici gave a sterling demo too. I had a go myself but was apparently a little too rough with that pestle!

  2. Oh, I adore this post. I love Genoa and I read of your wandering, via Anna, and felt inspired.

  3. Beautiful post about Genoa, Paola, Roberto and the famous+delicious pesto :)))

  4. Thank you Mary. A big thank you! :)