The King of Pesto on Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy”

There are countless recipes for trenette al pesto. However, the undisputed King of Pesto, Roberto Panizza makes the all-time best version. “I cook this dish at home all the time, but not as well as this”, remarked Stanley Tucci as he dug into a steaming bowl of emerald-green Trenette. Roberto Panizza gave Stanley a lesson on real Pesto Genovese on the Liguria episode of CNN’s “Searching for Italy”, carefully combining each ingredient to make the ultimate Trenette al Pesto.

“Basil, obviously, parmigiano, and lightly smoked pecorino, extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves (three of), salt, pepper, pine nuts, all crushed”

Ingredients Matter

Roberto takes his ingredients very seriously. After all, as the King of Pesto he knows the quality of each component is paramount to the final result. The basil itself is Ligurian DOP-certified, the leaves not more than a few days old. The garlic is a Slow Food protected variety from Vessalico, known for its mild flavor and high digestibility. The olive oil must be Ligurian, a sweet, smooth vehicle to amplify the other flavors of the sauce. The pine nuts, of course, are Italian grown, harvested from the Pinus Pinea tree variety.

Roberto Panizza always makes his pesto by hand. He meticulously crushes one ingredient after the other in a gigantic marble mortar with a huge wooden pestle. First the garlic, then the pine nuts, the basil, the olive oil, then finally the cheeses.

“Pesto must never touch the flame”, he warns Stanley. The heat would damage the delicate flavors and destroy its bright green color. To prepare Trenette al Pesto, Roberto cooks the green beans and potatoes directly in the water along with the pasta. The potatoes release extra starch into the cooking water, creating an incredibly creamy sauce.

If this episode has you craving pesto, be sure to read up on all Roberto’s tips and tricks to get it just right! Or, you could always go ahead and buy a jar ready-made by the King himself. Pesto is of course delicious with Trenette, but also with Fusilli or just about any pasta shape!