The Best Ligurian Pesto

When making their beloved pesto, Ligurians use sweet, delicate basil Genovese and remove any green sprouts from the center of the garlic cloves to avoid bitterness. The key to bright green color that stays: muddling the ingredients very finely in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle, since a blender’s blades can be too violent. When storing, top pesto with a thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate.

The Best Ligurian Pesto
An authentic pesto recipe from the heart of Italy's basil country.
Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, preferably Italian
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, preferably a delicate red-skinned variety, peeled
  • 2 bunches sweet Italian basil, leaves picked, thick stems removed (2 packed cups
  • 6-8 tbsp. olive oil, preferably Ligurian
  • 14 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 14 cup Pecorino Fiore Sardo (Pecorino Sardo)


  1. In a large mortar, add the pine nuts, salt, and garlic cloves. Using a large pestle, pound and scrape the ingredients into a very smooth paste, 5–7 minutes. Add the basil in small amounts, working it into the mixture after each addition, until all the basil has been added and the mixture is smooth and creamy, 15–20 minutes. Slowly add the oil while stirring with the pestle until emulsified. Add both cheeses and stir with the pestle to incorporate.

Pesto Genovese

Pesto GenoveseMichelle Heimerman