I grew up eating pesto, although it isn’t typically a southern Italian sauce. I didn't really understand the absolute sheer deliciousness of it until I went to Northern Italy to visit Lake Cuomo and Cinque Terre. Pesto originated in Genoa in the Ligurian region of Northern Italy and is famous in Verona and Bologna.
Interestingly, other than pasta, the best place to smear some pesto was on their regional focaccia, not their bread--which was disappointing for a girl who loves her crusty bread. Their pasta of choice for pesto is the trofie, a short, thin twisted pasta. Their pastas are made not from durum flour but chestnut flour which gives it a slightly different texture.
Pesto can be very versatile, classically made with a pignoli nut base. But I have begun to experiment with all types of nuts like walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and Macadamia (all roasted first of course for added depth of flavor). My favorite is pistachio (see recipe below) and also experimenting with basil and using arugula for a peppery kick or fresh mint.
I have also been working on the uses of pesto in a variety of ways other than pasta. Pesto can be smeared on crostini to accompany a Salumi or Cheese plate (stay tuned for my Salumi Plate video), as a sandwich spread, to make a salad dressing or dress vegetables, or as a condiment to proteins like chicken (see pesto chicken salad recipe), fish or meat and even eggs!
The pesto also delivers the healthy fats and nutrients that allow the absorption of iron in protein and fat soluble vitamins in greens and vegetables, so it is great to add to meals for that added nutrient punch!
Roasted Pistachio Pesto with Ricotta Crostini
2 Large Bunches of Fresh Basil
Extra Virgin Olive oil (about one cup) pour slowly and taste as you go
1/2 cup of Roasted Pistachio nuts
2 Tbs of Cashew nuts
1 whole lemon squeezed
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tsp of grated garlic
salt to taste
Crusty Baguette or Neapolitan Cafone bread
Di Palo Fresh Ricotta
Route: 60 minutes round trip walk
Start: Di Palo for fresh Ricotta and walk to Parisi Bakery for Bread
Whole Foods on Bowery for Basil, garlic, lemon, parmigiano reggiano (grated), Pistachios
Agata and Valentina for extra Virgin Olive oil