The Traditional Genoese Pesto Sauce

Preparing the traditional Genoese pesto sauce with mortar and pestle is not so difficult.

To be sure to choose the right mortar and pestle you should just know a few things.

The mortar has to be made in marble (in Italy is preferred the “marmo di Colonnata”, marble of Colonnata).

Colonnata is a tiny village just above Carrara in Tuscany (famous for the white or blue-grey marble quarried), a town of 300 inhabitants perched on a rocky spur of marble tucked between the quarries.

The pestle has to be preferably a softwood pestle, such as applewood, elmwood, etc..

It is not recommended to use a pestle made with olive wood because it is heavier.

This is how to prepare a great genoese pesto sauce using mortar and pestle.

Pesto sauce first step

The traditional Genoese Pesto sauce recipe


  • 4 bunches of fresh PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Genoese basil, which guarantees high-quality taste and flavor.
  • 50 g italian pine nuts
  • 40-50 g 30 month-aged parmigiano cheese
  • 10-20 g Fiore Sardo cheese (Pecorino Sardo) and 15-month-aged
  • 3 garlic cloves from Vassalico (Imperia)
  • 5-6 g coarse salt
  • 80 cc PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the “Italian Riviera”, renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, which adds flavour to the basil and dressing.


In a mortar finely crush the garlic clove, remove it from the mortar with a spoon and put it on a plate.

Then crush the pine nuts until they are smooth and put them on a corner of the same plate where you put the garlic clove.

Then smash the parmigiano cheese and place it on the plate. Repeat the same process with the Fiore sardo cheese or pecorino sardo.

At this point add a few grains of salt and the basil leaves, then pound the mixture using a light circular movement of the pestle against the sides.

When the basil drips bright green liquid, add half of each ingredients smashed before (garlic, pine nuts, parmigiano and pecorino sardo cheese).

Genoese Pesto sauce preparation

Mix all the ingredients and taste it. The flavor has to be harmonious. If necessary, you can correct with the remaining ingredients.

Finally, pour in a thin layer of PDO extra virgin olive oil from the Italian Riviera, which lightly blends the ingredients without overdoing.

The preparation must be done as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation problems.

Pesto sauce original recipe

If you are visiting Liguria we suggest to join our gourmet tours, where you’ll learn to make real pesto!

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