Pesto-Perfect Italy: Liguria

If there is one aroma that unifies Liguria—the region that arcs along Italy’s northwestern coast, joining France to Italy, Alps to sea—it’s Genovese basil.

Fragrant bouquets of basil line the stalls at outdoor markets and sit in windowsills, wafting a scent as pure as it is intense. And if you ask any locals the one food that showcases their world-famous basil, they won’t hesitate to answer: PESTO.

The leafy, sweet herb is protected by the European Union with DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta certification) status—meaning it has to be grown in this region.

 

The ingredients are few in a traditional pesto Genovese. But they need to be as specific as they are fresh: Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo cheeses, Tuscan pine nuts, garlic from nearby Vessalico, salt, and extra-virgin oil from the region’s Taggiasca olives.

And, of course, bright green Genovese basil.

 

In Liguria, locals add a dollop of pesto to their minestrone soup and slather it on bread. But the most common way to consume it is also the most classic: on pasta—especially Trofie,  or twists,  which can hold on to the slippery pesto.