There is no better place to enjoy the deeply traditional and distinct flavors of pesto, than while sitting at a seaside restaurant in the Liguria region of Italy. Two years ago, while we were fortunate enough to be stationed in Belgium with the US military, we traveled to Italy which included a tour of Cinque Terre.
The beautiful bluffs and colorful houses in Cinque Terre, Italy
Named for the “five lands” or five towns lining the shore on the Italian Riviera, this part of the Liguria region is famous for its beauty and its pesto.
Any time you can eat food in the place it originated, it enhances the experience and provides an understanding for the regional connection to the food.
Restaurant in Cinque Terre, Italy that served awesome fresh sea bass with a great pesto
The Italian coastline was a beautiful highlight of our trip-the remarkable flavor of the pesto and sea bass we had for dinner that evening still anchors the memory.
Like all good memories, we attempt to replicate and relive the finer points. Upon our return from Italy, I gathered fresh ingredients to do just that.
The authentic recipes I found were hard to duplicate since I do not routinely measure in handfuls (my grandma measured in handfuls, but most folks appreciate more precise directions).
I suppose, that is the beauty of a recipe that has been perfected or made a thousand times over-the measurements become instinctive.
With a fresh bundle of basil, I aspired to translate measurement and technique into a pesto recipe that could transport me once again to the salty sea air and piquant sauce as green as the terraced landscape.
This particular recipe comes very close, though I understand it could be even closer if I were willing to forgo using the processor for the traditional mortar and pestle.
Pesto derives its name from this traditional method as the word literally means, to pound, or to crush. I appreciate authenticity as much as anyone does, but by using the processor, this yummy sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the pasta, so it’s a quicker trip down memory lane!
The basil pictured is the approximate amount required for this recipe, which yields 2 cups and serves eight if tossed with pasta. Check local farmer’s markets for the larger quantities and best price.
This is a versatile sauce that can be tossed with pasta as a side dish, like in our fresh recipe for summery pesto pasta salad with peas, or used as a garnish on quiche, grilled chicken, or fish. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cream to this recipe for a creamy version that tastes great with steamed or grilled vegetables.
This is a traditional basil sauce; however, there are numerous variations by substituting other ingredients, including: walnuts, fresh parsley, cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, or other hard cheeses. Or, you could even add unconventional ingredients, such as lemon juice or zest.
Looking for a pasta sauce that’s a bit more filling? Our slow cooker meat sauce brings on extra heartiness!
Fresh ingredients produce the best results and there is no better time to find fragrant, lavish bunches of basil for the sauce, than right now.
If you love this basily sauce, then you’ll love to try out some of these recipes:
- Camembert Cheese & Pistachio Basil Pesto Bruschetta
- Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta
- Portobello Burgers with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- Fresh Zucchini Pasta with Tomatoes and Homemade Pesto
- Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Pesto Pizza
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!