This particular recipe is very characteristic of one of the most interesting coastal regions of Italy, Liguria. It must be something to do with the air, but the best basil in Italy grows here, usually the small-leaved type, thus the famous sauce, pesto al Genovese (from Genoa). Both pasta and pesto are best made at home from scratch, only in this way will you obtain the desired taste and texture.
- 250 g Italian '00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large bunch small-leaved basil (about 50 leaves), plus extra to garnish
- 10–15 g coarse sea salt
- 40 g pine kernels
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 100 ml olive oil
- 80 g parmesan or pecorino, freshly grated
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 15 minutes
To make the pasta, place the flour in a bowl or on a work surface, and make a well in the centre. Add the egg, yolks, half the oil and a pinch of salt. Firstly with a fork and then with your hands, gradually mix the flour with the eggs and oil until you obtain a rough paste. If necessary, add a splash of water.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until it is smooth, not sticky. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 15–30 minutes.
Divide the dough into quarters. If you have a pasta machine, place the dough through the rollers gradually, starting with the highest setting, until you have silky sheets about 1 mm thick, or less. Cut the sheets of pasta into large squares, about 15 cm x 15 cm, and dust with flour to prevent them sticking together.
To make the pesto, put the basil leaves in a large mortar with the salt, pine kernels and garlic. Grind down with the pestle until it becomes a fine pulp. Start to add the oil and continue grinding until the mixture is smooth. Add the parmesan and mix well.
Place the pasta sheets one by one into a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted boiling water, and add the remaining oil. Cook until al dente, about 3 minutes or so.
Place about 3–4 tbsp pesto in a large pan and warm up gently with the same amount of water from the pasta pan, which will dilute it a bit. Remove the pasta sheets from the water using a perforated scoop, and place them into the sauce.
Add the rest of the sauce, mix well, and serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.
Photography by David Loftus