The Italian Riviera is the home of pesto, as the basil, the base of pesto, really likes the local climate. Basil is mixed with parmigiano (parmesan cheese), garlic, olive oil and pine nut. You can eat it on pasta, gnocchi, focaccia or pizza, but I also love it on a simple toast. Local people eat it mainly on a pasta called trofie.
You can buy freshly made pesto in the little shops of the Cinque Terre. However, I have found the best pesto at the market in La Spezia. If you walk down in the middle, the first stand on the left is called "Da Valerio". I love buying pesto and cheese here. It is also cheaper than in the 5 villages. At the market, a kilo of pesto costs approx. 16 EUR while in some little shops of the villages I've seen it for more than 40 EUR. You should also try the walnut sauce. I warn you, if you go to this market, you will end up with a basket full of delicious stuff.
Of course if you feel like it, you can also make your own pesto from fresh ingredients. I have found this recipe in a ligurian cookbook but you can change the proportions. In the video below, the chef made it with different quantities. If you like the strong taste of garlic, don't hesitate to add more.
Real pesto is made by hand in marble mortar with a wooden pestle but of course a mixer will also do.
Crush up basil, pine nuts and garlic with some salt in a mortar. Then mix with grated parmesan cheese and olive oil.
If you don't feel like cooking during your holiday, don't worry, you will find pasta with pesto and focaccia with pesto all around the Cinque Terre villages.
If you would like to learn pesto-making from a local expert, try this pesto course in Manarola.
We have also made a video about pesto-making. Chef Alberto was cooking with Mautner Zsófi (author of a popular
Hungarian gastroblog), they prepared trofie al pesto and pansotti with walnut sauce.
Italian gastrotrip: how to make pesto?