The third sauce in the world today is……pesto.

We can liken Pesto to Genoa as we can Paella to Valencia – the surrounding towns and villages have their versions, the one remains as the gold standard.

Some we talk to in Genoa say that Pesto, made traditionally in the mortar fashioned from Carrara marble, can only be made with Basil – in fact they go further as genuine Pesto alla Genovese can only be correctly made with the DOP Basilico Genovese grown along the steep Ligurian Riviera. Any other sauce is to be called a Salsa.

Many reasons are given for the special quality of Ligurian basil – one told in all seriousness is that the soils there benefited from the corpses of the slaughtered horses of Napoleon’s returning army which are buried there.

Pesto is reckoned to be the world’s 3rd most popular sauce after Ketchup and Mayonnaise. We trace our way to the best that Genoa can offer – and best in Genoa means best in the world. Theirs is not ‘industrial’ pesto, but a heady aromatic sauce that has delighted visitors to Liguria for a century or more.

The first recorded recipe dates back to 1863 in ‘Cuciniera Genovese’ compiled by a father and son who went by the old name of Batto.

For interest we show an expert’s step by step on how to make the Pesto alla Genovese in the traditional ‘al mortaio’ method.

And once you have your sauce, what to do with it – pasta like trofie and trenette are traditional, but so today is serving Pesto with baccalà, grilled or steamed white fish, octopus, squid, chicken and potatoes.

This is a local recipe held as dear as any we’ve encountered and purists are right to defend it from industrial makers who used sub-standard ingredients.

Just as a real Valenciana will look you straight in the eyes and tell you the true Paella alla Valencia depends as much on the city’s water as on the rice, saffron and sofrito, so Pesto alla Genovese must be protected at all costs.