It’s always fun to come back to Italy after extensive times abroad. I really feel like a foreigner now, especially when I find myself in super Italian situations that I used to find uncool. Now, I find them fun.
Ok, I probably wouldn’t spontaneously sign up to take part in a Pesto competition (also because I am a zero at cooking), but I accidentally found myself in one and I thought it was fun. And embarrassing, okay, but still fun!
So here’s what happened. It was a sunny Sunday in May and Jason was visiting. I thought about showing him something typical and we went to lower Piedmont to a wine tasting event. Italian enough, right?
After driving around the hills with golf courses and vineyards, we reached the fort of Gavi (yes, that Gavi, where the “Gavi” wine comes from!) and there were multiple food and wine stands waiting for us. I don’t drink so I didn’t join Jason in his tastings, but I did enjoy my conversations with the wine producers. I used to work for one of them, and for a wine importer in NYC too, so we had something in common to talk about.
Then for some reason, we walked up to what looked like a small church, and entered it just to see what it looked like. We found ourselves in front of a table with mortars and pestles, basil, olive oil and other ingredients that I immediately recognized: someone was going to make pesto there!
We asked what was going on, and we were told there was going to be a pesto competition in a few minutes, but what a coincidence, two participants were missing. Sooo… that’s what happened! You can imagine the rest. And yes we did look gorgeous in our plastic aprons (imagine a cool sunglasses smiley here).
The guy in the blue apron is Roberto. He participated and won the Pesto-with-mortar-and-pestle world championship! I didn’t even know this competition existed, and I was super impressed.
They gave us 20 minutes and all the ingredients. At the end, the jury would judge the taste, consistence, color and preparation of our Pesto. The best would win a bottle of Gavi wine. I had no idea where to start, but I think I was not the only one… So we started.
Time went really fast, and when I tasted the Pesto I realized I put way too much garlic. It was ruined!
It was really frustrating, especially since I am from Genova, the motherland of Pesto! I realized how bad I am at cooking (not that I didn’t know, but…!) but at the same time I felt like I wanted to learn.
When time was over, the judges started to taste our Pestos and I didn’t even look at them: I was ashamed and didn’t want to see disappointment on their face when trying my Pesto.
Yes you saw that well… one of the jury members was a monk!
Later on, me and Jason had some Limoncello (a typical Italian liqueur made with lemons) with the monk, but this is another story!
Before telling us who won the competition, Roberto showed us the right procedure to make Pesto. All I did was wrong. Opsie.
For some reason I’m sure the monk liked Roberto’s pesto more than the other ones… This one below is the Italian sign for “good”, when it comes to food!
Are you craving some fresh Pesto sauce yet? Ok, you find a mortar and pestel, and I give you the list of ingredients you need to do the real thing. Remember: the blender makes a darker pesto, where the tastes and smells of the ingredients are not harmonic. There’s a specific order in which the ingredients have to be added, but that’s the world champion’s secret…
Here are the ingredients though:
- the original basil of Genova Prà (a specific area of Genova).
- garlic of Vessalico.
- integral big grains of salt from saline.
- first choice Italian pine nuts.
- Parmigiano cheese, aged for 36 months.
- Sardinian “Primofiore” pecorino cheese.
- extra virgin olive oil from the Ligurian hills.
…and you thought making Pesto was easy?
If this looks like too much hassle, especially finding the ingredients, you can just book a holiday in Italy and go to the restaurant… easier!
In the end, I scored the 4th place (I am still surprised!) and had a lot of fun.
Roberto and his collaborators organize food related events and… trips to India. Here is their page!
Thanks Jason and Roberto for the photos.