copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
Plant and herb lovers will tell you that now is the perfect time to pick basil leaves. And chefs will tell you that they’re the ideal size to be chopped up and put into your favorite dishes. Famous Recipes is here to tell you the history of pesto, a delicious sauce where basil plays the most important role.
The term pesto comes from the verb meaning “to pound” or “to crush”. The earliest known recorded version of pesto comes from Roman poet Virgil’s (70 – 19 BCE) Bucoliche. Virgil writes of a similar Roman sauce called moretum. But the sauce alluded to in this epic is not quite the pesto we know today because it didn’t have the most essential ingredient: basil. Basil wasn’t officially added to the recipe until the mid 19th Century after the plant had been introduced to Europe and found a perfect home in the Liguria region of Italy’s northwest.
After the basil was added, the recipe became extremely more complex. According to the Basil Park in Genova Pra (http://parco-basilico.provincia.genova.it/eng/Index_PBP.html), an Italian website devoted to making the most of Genoa’s most famous food, “For centuries basil was attributed magical virtues in addition to the properties that made it so valuable in the kitchen, so that it had to be gathered in accordance with sacred, codified rituals.” This is why many older recipes will call for hand mixing the leaves in special dishes. A more scientific assumption says that basil helps with ailments such as skin disease and intestinal trouble. But interestingly enough, basil plants can be affected by any number of factors including the time of day of harvest. Whether or not there is any truth behind the medicinal or magical properties of basil, however, is immaterial. A lover of fine Italian foods will tell you that its greatest quality is its taste. And pesto is a solid example of this.
2 ½ Cups Basil
½ Cups Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Pine Nuts
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp Pecorino-Romano cheese
Bit of pepper
In a food processor, put olive oil, pepper, basil, nuts, and garlic. Process until just blended.
Put mixture in bowl and whisk in cheese.
For more great recipes and tips get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati at http://www.marialiberati.com and got to http://www.marialiberati.com/blog2