Since visiting Portovenere on a trip up the coast to Cinque Terre last summer, I will never forget the sample I took of pesto that was unlike any other pesto I had tasted in Italy. Portovenere is small fishing community know for making this legendary basil sauce which has takes on a unique flavor after being invented in the northern town of Genoa.
The term pesto originates from the Italian verb pestare which means "to pound." Before the days of food processors, Italians would ground up fresh basil, garlic, cheese and pine nuts to be made into this light, sauce to be topped on a variety of pastas. Some recipes let the pine nuts or pecorino cheese dominate the flavors, although the secret I found was adding fresh squeezed lemon to the recipe for a fresh, light variation.
The Gracious Posse points out that "Rick Steves revealed that the flavor of the Cinque Terre pesto is enhanced with an equal combination of parmigiano and pecorino cheeses." I added even more lemon and left some whole toasted pine nuts in the sauce.
In Portovenere it would be most common for the sauce to be paired with the pasta of the region:
trenette. Although, I I tossed this pesto made with fresh basil from our garden with handmade gnocchi, tomatoes and grated parmigiana.
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1 clove garlic
3 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
⅛ cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
⅛ cup Pecorini cheese, grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil (or grapeseed oil)
½ t salt (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
City girl, traveler, foodie and film fanatic sharing stories on every day, attainable luxury. Passionate about speaking Italian, exploring, cooking, and crafting.