Pesto alla Genovese, market survey


Pesto alla Genovese, the 17 authentic products on the market

Pesto alla Genovese-the subject of recent controversy in England for its variable salt content-has a centuries-old tradition in Liguria. Its recipe, by the way, has been codified by a special consortium. Pending its registration and protection, at the EU level, as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG). We conducted an initial market survey, thanks to which it is possible to identify 17 seasonings that broadly comply with this recipe.

Pesto alla Genovese, the authentic recipe

The bibliography on Ligurian cuisine cited by Wikipedia dates back to the late 1800s. (1) More recent texts – such as The Italian Kitchen and
The Silver Spoon
– which document the cuisine of the Peninsula since 1929 and 1950, respectively.

The authentic recipe for pesto is essentially unchanged, and consists of extra virgin olive oil, basil (now Genoese DOP), Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, Sardinian (or Roman) pecorino, pine nuts, garlic, and sea salt. With little variation as to the origin of oil, basil and pine nuts, whose provenance according to tradition should be as close as possible (so for example, 100% Italian oil, basil now PDO, Italian or at least Mediterranean pine nuts).

The Register of Traditional Food Products updated annually by the Ministry of Agriculture, in turn, lists pesto among the specialties of Liguria. (2) And it is helpful to clarify the usual name of the food. That is, the characteristics that Genoese pesto should have in order to be designated as such, according to established customs.

Pesto alla Genovese, the authentic products

The market survey conducted by Great Italian Food Trade is inevitably selective, as real Genoese pesto constitutes a tiny minority of what supermarkets offer.

Nationwide, the only packages of real or at least likely pesto were found at Conad (Sapori & Dintorni line), Eataly and Auchan (see attached table). Other selected products, however, are only available locally and regionally. We would welcome news and photos of labels of other jars that may have escaped our search.

Outside of this narrow selection we witness the profusion of jars, in Italian supermarkets, that of pesto have only the name, the green color and a little basil (sometimes even DOP). Too little, in the writer’s humble opinion, to invoke the tradition of Genoa and its environs.

Dario Dongo



(1) Under the heading pesto, in bibliography, Wikipedia lists La cuciniera genovese (by Giobatta Ratto, ed. Pagano, Genoa, 1893) and La vera cuciniera genovese facile ed economica, (Emanuele Rossi, ed. Bietti, Genoa, 1898)

(2) Cf. Ministerial Decree 14.7.17, Update of the national list of traditional food products, pursuant to Article 12, Paragraph 1, of Law Dec. 12, 2016, no. 238, su Annex 1, Liguria Region, entry no. 38