My name is Roberto Panizza and I make pesto. I began slowly, for fun, and I ended up as an artisan producer. But I still have fun. I’ve organized The Pesto World Championship with my friends. And it’s serious business.
Small and aromatic DOP Genovese basil, grown in Liguria. Heirloom garlic from Liguria, or Vessalico, an inland village on the western coast. DOP Parmigiano Reggiano, aged 24 months. Fiore Sardo DOP, a raw milk cheese made by shepherds in the province of Sassari. Italian pine nuts and Italian extra virgin olive oil. Salt from the salt mines near Trapani. These are the ingredients to make Red Pesto. This pasta sauce is now one of the symbols of culinary Italy, well-known and sold all over the world. But what is pesto really?
First, you have to use the aromatic basil from the Ligurian Coast, or better yet, DOP Genovese Basil, which gives the sauce its flavor. All the other ingredients are important but the “know how” and experience handed down from generation to generation is essential. There is no recipe for pesto, it’s all about the technique. This was an observation by my English friend, a culinary expert. And I think he’s right. There are lots of ingredients allowed so everyone can come up with “his own Pesto.”
The best pesto is prepared with a mortar and pestle, an ancient system that offers better results than the modern systems have ever been able to obtain. Then you throw in the physical contact with the marble, the wood, the sweat.
Working with a mortar and pestle is like climbing up a rock wall with your bare hands or flying with Leonardo da Vinci’s ancient flying machine. It’s an early machine that has stood the test of time.
Obviously, you can make good pesto with modern tools, in larger amounts. The jar isn’t really the devil’s tool. It all depends on what’s in it!
There are various, strictly industrial tools for when price, standardization and production speed are important.
I like to know that my pesto travels to Japan, the USA, Singapore and Hong Kong as well as many European countries.
I like to think that the entrepreneurial spirit of Genoa is alive and well with my pesto.
The World Pesto Championship represents just that: the pride of the Genovese in their tradition, shared with millions of people worldwide.
One hundred competitors in Genoa in the Salone del Maggior Consiglio at Palazzo Ducale, which was the former Parliament of the Republic, compete to prepare the best mortar and pestle pesto. After two years of competitions, the Palatifini Association organized elimination rounds in Canada, Ecuador, the United States, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Norway and, naturally, in Italy and Genoa.
This is a celebration, not a festival or a show, where there is no food and nothing is sold. It is a moment of pride for those who participate and for those who attend. The champion wins a wood and gold pestle and the sweet glory of victory (yeah, okay).
A gift to our beloved city that seems like it is destined to stand the test of time.