Pesto Origins with Giancarlo Marabotti

March 12, 2012 / Food & Wine
Meeting Giancarlo has been a pleasant surprise for me. The first time we met was during a dinner with friends in Genoa. His passion, knowledge and interest with food, traditions and culture immediately captured me. Giancarlo is a great chef who has participated to the “World Pesto Championship” and is part of the “Slow food association”.

During that evening he involved everyone at table telling about traditions and ancient ligurian recipes. Between a recipe and another it came out that Pesto sauce has origins from an ancient recipe named “agliata” (a sort of garlic sauce) used by the genoese sailors in 1200 a.d. during the long sailing months. The “agliata”, used to flavor and disinfect the dried meat, was made of garlic and bread soaked in vinegar. With the passing of the centuries, Giancarlo told us that the vinegar was substituted with basil, cheese, olive oil, nuts and then, pine nuts.

Furthermore, he told us that one of the first cheese used to make the green sauce was a dutch cheese, while parmigiano and the pecorino cheese were only introduced later!

(For a recipe see Anna’s note here.)

Anna Merulla

by Anna Merulla

Founder of Beautiful Liguria, a travel concierge service that offers everything from tour planning, hiking excursions, cooking lessons, personal shopping and much more in this great region. In 2009 she decided to begin sharing her personal knowledge of the beauty, the culture, and the history of Liguria in which she’s immersed every day.

7 Responses to “Pesto Origins with Giancarlo Marabotti”

  1. Pesto sauce has come a long way! I made and froze. without the parmigiano, about fifteen jars a season with basil from the garden in Naples. Your photo looks very appetizing.

  2. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    You hear many stories of ‘Pesto” what also appears to be of crucial concern is how it is pasted. Is a food processor acceptable? ma no! solo un mortaio e pestello

  3. Paula (Giangreco) Cullison

    I Love Pesto … and had the best pesto in San Giuseppe di Cairo near Savona where I stayed with a couple whom I met through They had stayed here in Arizona and invited me to stay at their home :-) Their homemade pesto was awesome. Now and again I make it. When I do, my thoughts return to Liguria. Thanks for the memories.

  4. I’m the only Italian I know who’s allergic to basil. So I settle for the enticing aroma of pesto. As an aside, my father, brother and I are also the only three Italisns I know who can’t sing.

  5. GAIL Schomer

    While my brother Mott & sister in Law, Barb lived in Italy, they were personal friends of Giancarlo Marabotti. Giancarlo was a neighbor friend of our grandmother, Dina Barsanti. What a wonderful heritage to have. Thank you for the recipe, Dina Petroni

  6. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post rich with Italian history and traditions about Pesto. I love to make pesto with fresh basil from my garden and I am very happy now to know the origin of the recipe.


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