Genoese Pesto

Genoese Pesto

Here you can find pesto alla genovese produced by Trattoria Cavour modo21 in Genoa. Pesto alla genovese is the famous traditional Ligurian pasta sauce made from Genoese basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, oil and salt. You can find out more about pesto alla genovese at the bottom of this page, but our advice is to find out for yourself by tasting our pesto alla genovese for sale!



  • €4.00 - €101.00

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Más información sobre Genoese Pesto

Pesto alla Genovese is one of the most widely used pasta sauces in the world. The sales success of pesto genovese is certainly due to its unique taste, but also to its ease of use: pesto alla genovese is a ready-made sauce with which you can quickly season pasta, to be used cold and which therefore needs no further preparation after purchase; you drain the pasta, open the jar, season and that's it. Many typical Ligurian dishes include pesto as a condiment, which is considered the region's most representative gastronomic speciality. For a website that sells Ligurian products, a guide to Genoese pesto seemed obligatory.


Many have tried to reconstruct the history of pesto alla genovese but, as with many typical Italian recipes, its origins are obscure and what we eat today is the result of a negotiation between the many homemade variants handed down over the last two centuries. What we do know for certain is that a garlic-based battuto (chopped garlic sauce) has existed throughout the Mediterranean since Roman times, which we can identify as the ancestor of many sauces we eat today, including pesto. The most direct heirs of this battuto are agliata and aiolì, which are used as an accompaniment for fish, vegetables and boiled meats and not as a condiment for pasta. 

In Genoa, starting in the Middle Ages, the tradition of eating pasta became widespread. This custom stems from the fact that the city's merchants were the promoters of the trade in this Arab novelty, whose industry had been founded in Sicily. First, the Genoese traded mainly 'foreign' produced pasta, then they began to produce it directly for the domestic market, also thanks to the parallel establishment of their monopoly on the transport of wheat by sea from the Black Sea ports. This mediaeval pasta was mostly seasoned with cacio cheese and/or broth: oil or herbs could be added to the cheese, and among the seasonings there was also a reworked version with cheese of that garlic chop we have already mentioned.

Then, in the mid-1800s, two books were published that would forever define the typical recipe for Genoese pesto. "Giobatta Ratto's 'La cuciniera genovese' (1863) and Emanuele Rossi's 'La vera cucina genovese' (1865) are the first documentations of pesto, quoted as we (almost) know it today: in reality, these two testimonies rather than providing proof of authenticity make us realise how much the recipe was still very fluid and subject to personal interpretation at the time. One admits, for example, the use of marjoram to replace basil, which was not available in all seasons. What is important on a historical level is that we have an actual link between pesto and basil, a link that will only become indissoluble and obvious from this period onwards. And all this brings us back to the debated question of the original ingredients of pesto.


Genoese basil, garlic, grated cheese, pine nuts, olive oil and salt. Almost two centuries after the first mentions of pesto in 19th-century cookbooks, all the Genoese in town agree that this is the basic recipe. Then most probably in the secrecy of their home kitchens, there will be those who will not put garlic in it and those who will avoid pine nuts, but they will hardly admit it so as not to incur excommunication: to tell the truth, our grandmothers made far fewer problems for themselves and got by with what came through the convent, in peace with disciplinarians and defenders of the 'true' tradition; it was not at all strange that butter was added or that, in the absence of a mortar or blender, a simpler and poorer beaten dish was prepared with the crescent moon. 

This is to say that in the end everyone carries on their own family recipe, but if the majority agree that the basic ingredients are just that, there must be some good reason! 

For example, if in the modern era people had not started adding Genoese basil to the pasta sauce commonly used in the city with oil, garlic and cheese, we would probably not be talking about Genoese pesto today because it would not have had the same success: it is undeniable that Genoese basil expresses a unique aromatic delicacy, incomparable to any other herb (or to other varieties of basil, which outside our region takes on minty notes) and that basil is the winning element in the preparation of pesto.

The much-discussed garlic - loved by locals and much less so by outsiders - may be liked or disliked, but as we pointed out earlier, it is perhaps the ingredient that has the most historical reason to be in pesto, being already present in preparations that are recognised as its ancestors. In both Genoese cuisines, the recipe for what would become known as 'pesto genovese' is mainly referred to as garlic pesto, with basil playing the role of a supporting role. The most famous Ligurian garlic is Vessalico garlic, characteristic of a village in the Arroscia Valley in the province of Imperia. Being an autochthonous garlic, it was chosen as the garlic for pesto. However, production is very limited and therefore it is quite unthinkable that all Genoese pesto is made with Vessalico garlic, and in fact even at home common Italian garlic is used. The characteristic that has made Vessalico garlic so famous is its extreme digestibility combined with a marked aromatic note. 

As with Vessalico, the same reasoning applies to taggiasche olive oil, a typical Ligurian variety, preferred for pesto. On cheese, on the other hand, there is a whole separate discussion to be made.... 


Medieval and modern Genoese pasta sauces included the use of cacio cheese. It is interesting that the recipes of Rossi and Ratto propose as cheese for their pesto, the cheese you least expect... cheese from Holland: this Dutch cheese is Gouda, a cow's milk cheese with a semi-cooked paste, which is also marketed mature. In the preparation of contemporary Genoese pesto, mature Italian cheeses are preferred, especially parmesan or grana; Sardinian fiore (pecorino) is considered among the original ingredients of the 'official' recipe, however it has a very pronounced aromaticity and a strong flavour, which does not meet everyone's taste.

Cheese is the ingredient on which (perhaps) there is most tolerance among the Genoese.


Pesto originated as a condiment for pasta. It is added cold to season directly on the plate. If the pesto is too 'thick', you can decide to dilute it with a little cooking water from the pasta to make it creamier. Never, ever cook the pesto because the heat ruins the organoleptic qualities of Genoese basil. There are baked pesto lasagnas, but it is perhaps the only recipe in which baking is tolerated. Typical Ligurian pasta shapes with which pesto is dressed are: trofie, potato gnocchi, trenette, croxetti del levante, testaroli.

In addition to changing the type of pasta (dry or fresh, long or short) to try a slightly different pesto-based first course, one can decide to add potatoes and green beans to the pesto pasta: this is a fairly common recipe in the homes of the Genoese; the potatoes are cut into cubes and boiled with the fresh green beans while the pasta is cooking. This recipe is mistakenly known by many as 'advantaged pasta': in reality, 'trofie avvantaggiate' and 'trenette avvantaggiate' only refer to the fact that the dough is prepared with wholemeal or semi-wholemeal flours.

In recent years, as pesto is a very tasty ready-made sauce, it has been chosen for various gastronomic uses in addition to pairing with pasta: it has become common to find pizzas with pesto alla genovese on the menus of many pizzerias, which can be used either in place of tomato sauce or added as it comes out of the oven. From pizza to gourmet sandwiches then the step was short and pesto was chosen as a sauce for hamburgers.


Whether you have made your own pesto at home or bought the one on our website, it is in both cases a fresh condiment and should therefore be stored in the fridge. Homemade pesto usually needs to be consumed within a few days, whereas modo21 pesto, because it is vacuum-packed (but not pasteurised, so it is still a fresh product) has a shelf life of more than a month, with the caveat that the jar must remain closed and stored in the fridge at all times. If, by chance, you have used the pesto but not the whole jar, you can keep it for a few more days in the fridge. The secret is to add a little oil on the surface and in this way you will prevent the pesto from oxidising and turning black. Fresh pesto can be frozen, but do not use heat sources to thaw it.


We are biased and certainly consider modo21 pesto to be the best Genoese pesto, which is exactly the same as the one we serve in our trattoria Cavour modo21 in Genoa. However, for your more informed purchase, here is some more information on Genoese pesto on sale.

Pesto with PDO Genoese Basil

The ready-made pesto packaged with the PDO Genoese Basil logo on the label has been authorised by the consortium, which certifies that only PDO Genoese basil has been used in its recipe, i.e. basil grown in the land on the seaward side of Liguria. There is no one Genoese basil that is more Genoese than another or more PDO, and although the most famous basil in the city is Prà basil (grown in the district to the far west of Genoa), quality Genoese basil can be found throughout the region. It is a different matter when you move away from the sea side, and indeed the flavour and aroma of Genoese basil changes.

The PDO mark does not refer to the pesto, or its recipe, but only to the basil used, which must have been grown by producers belonging to the PDO Genoese Basil Consortium.

Genoese Pesto without garlic

There are those who say they can't digest garlic, or don't like the taste, and to cater for this market, pesto without garlic has been on the market for a few years now: since it is explicitly stated - shamelessly :) - in the very name of the product, in the end we could simply consider it a different product, just as pistachio pesto exists in the same way. As we have written in previous paragraphs, garlic is perhaps the only ingredient that really has a historical right to be in pesto, but we are not prejudiced. Simply, at the moment we at modo21 remain faithful to our recipe handed down to us by Mrs Alfonsina Trucco, the winner of the world championship of pesto al mortaio in 2014, that she put garlic in. Our pesto modo21 is already delicate on its own and so we do not need to remove the garlic....

Fresh Genoese pesto and pasteurised pesto

The difference between the two is that pasteurised pesto has undergone thermal sterilisation. Pasteurisation makes it possible to change the way the pesto is stored, so that it can be kept out of the fridge for a long time; the downside is that this way the basil spoils (basil cannot stand heat) and in fact many times you recognise this pesto on supermarket shelves because it has a very dark hue, which has little to do with the green of the pesto.

On the other hand, the pesto sold on Molo modo21 is a fresh Genoese pesto, which is vacuum-packed and this does not change the organoleptic qualities of the product, which are the same as at the time of production. Since modo21 pesto is exactly what you eat at Trattoria Cavour modo21, it does not even have any preservatives or other chemical ingredients, it is simply packaged in jars and shipped to your home in thermal packaging.