The name of this sauce, for which our region is famous worldwide, originates from the sauce preparation method, i.e. crushing (pestare) basil leaves and the other ingredients in the traditional marble mortar with a wooden pestle.
Pesto originates probably from the medieval crushed garlic-based sauces, which in turn had replaced the ancient Roman garum sauce, a very popular condiment consisting of fish fermented in salt with aromatic herbs, but without the use of any fatty condiment. The use of fatty condiments was borrowed from Middle East recipes, where there is plenty of sauces containing pine-nuts and sour cheese, used as a thickener for the various ingredients.
When cheese was replaced by olive oil to provide for the binding function, other types of hard cheeses were used: firstly Dutch cheeses, due to the close trade relationships between Genoa and Northern Europe, then Italian cheeses: Pecorino and Grana. Therefore pesto can be considered as the first fatty, olive oil-based sauce in gastronomy.
However it was basil, introduced in the recipe later on, that assumed in a short time the main role in the pesto recipe.
Actually the pesto recipe as known today was firstly coded in the mid 19th century.
It firstly appeared in the recipe book “Cucina Genovese” by the Brothers Ratto, where it’s defined as “chopped garlic and basil sauce” and “a condiment suitable for any kind of pasta”.
Serre sul Mare