My Pesto

Suggested Wines: Villa Bianco, Antinori (Grapes: Trebbiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay); Spartito, Castellare (Grape: Sauvignon Blanc)

Id been to Recco, a small town outside Genoa which, like all of Liguria, is famous for silky, emerald pesto, redolent with garlic and basil, and cool Ligurian breezes. The Genovese turn a plate of trenette al pesto, a simple primo or first course, into a perfect well-rounded meal by adding green beans and potatoes. I had an astounding plate of this at a Genovese restaurant called Manuelina with my friend Giorgio Onesti and on the way home became obsessed with creating a Tuscan pesto.

Literally, pesto means crushed. In Liguria, recipes specify crushing the basil by hand in marble mortar with a pestle of good wood. In Pieve San Stefano, I had in my garden forty-seven herbs I could crush. I started to experiment.

It took me a month to find the right combination and proportion of herbs. I didnt want to take a bite and be able to discern a little marjoram, a little thyme, a little mint. What I wanted was for all the herbs to fuse into one flavor. I started chopping herbs and letting them macerate in olive oil for a week at a time until I got the taste I was looking for. A journalist I know, Domenico Acconci, dubbed the results lArometo, which means the place where aromas come from- just as frutta (fruit) comes from a frutteto, olives come from an oliveto, and grapevines come from a vigneto.