what’s cooking wednesday: pesto alla genovese

OK, show of hands. Who loves basilico?

Me me me!

Today’s What’s Cooking Wednesday recipe is Pesto alla Genovese, and although many of you probably know this basil and garlic-based sauce as a companion for pasta (often paired with linguine or spaghetti), I’m here to tell you that this should in no way limit your creativity.

I’m giving you a basic pesto recipe and one very easy serving suggestion (great for summer snacks!), but the possibilities are truly endless–Jamie Oliver told me so just the other day. He even mentioned chicken, and he’s a genius in the cucina.

But before we get to the recipe, a little information on pesto:

First of all, the word “pesto” means pounded or crushed; indeed the traditionally made pesto is made in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. “Genovese” means that the recipe originated in the city of Genoa (Liguria region), as legend goes, as far back as the 16th century when a sauce called “battuto d’aglio,” loosely, crushed garlic, is referenced.

The traditional ingredients are basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and Pecorino Sardo (a strong cheese from Sardinia), but most modern recipes also add pine nuts and/or other ingredients.

Note that Pesto alla Genovese isn’t the only pesto in town though; there’s also Pesto alla Siciliana from Sicily. Perhaps I’ll give you a recipe for that someday as well, but for now I’ll tell you that it includes far less basil and…tomatoes! Love those tomatoes!

Pesto alla Genovese

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed (no stems)
2 medium-sized garlic cloves
4 tbsp pine nuts
1/4 tsp salt (can leave this out if your cheese is salty enough)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (if you don’t have this, use all parmigiano)

If you’re using a mortar and pestle, I’ve been told (and I’ve read) that the trick is to chop the ingredients separately and then combine them bit by bit (except the cheese, which should be added last).

I, however, use a hand-held blender because that’s what I have. You may use a food processor. I put in the garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt, and olive oil and blend well, but not too well–you don’t need it to be completely amalgamated. Sometimes I add a little extra olive oil if it looks too dry.

Then I stir in the cheeses.

That’s it!

As shown above, I’ve sliced a big beefsteak tomato, spread on an espresso spoonful of pesto, then shaved some parmigiano on top–looks pretty, we’ve got the green, white, and red of the Italian flag covered, and it’s delicious to boot.

Would it gross you out to know I had this for breakfast?

Another idea would be to stuff cherry tomatoes with pesto. Yum! I just love tomatoes and pesto together–can you tell?

I’ve also had roasted red peppers stuffed with scallops and pesto, and they not only looked impressive, but also tasted fabulous.

So you see, pesto ain’t just for pasta anymore (not that it ever was), so get grinding!

Buon appetito!


[tags]pesto, basil, basilico, pesto alla genovese, recipes, what’s cooking wednesday[/tags]

let the answering begin: the sequel

Sequel you ask? Why yes!

The original “let the answering begin!” can be found here, and that explains what this is all about, but for those who missed it and don’t feel like clicking:

A while back, I asked you what you would like to know about me so I could fill out the 8 things meme that JennieBoo tagged me with, and you responded. I’ve already answered 6 questions, which you can find here, and now here are five more.

Today’s topics are two very unrelated ones: my Calabrian fiancé P and the United States. They don’t even share a language, but in my world, they get to share a post! Whee!

(1) One of my most favoritist bloggers in France, Meredith of Poppy Fields, asked me whether I’ve married my “beau” or if it’s something I’m planning on doing.

No need to start out small, eh?

Well the first part is easy. We’re not married.

The second part is a little more complicated, but I’d say we’re 85-90% “for” getting married. It’s not really a big deal for either of us religiously or even emotionally (sorry for those who don’t like to see “the just a piece a paper” thing but . . . I do imagine that at some point we will make it official.

I talked briefly about some possible wedding plans here, but there’s nothing officially planned. Next summer is a possibility though.

For anyone not familiar with the odd engagement procedure (at least to me) in Italy, basically you’re fidanzati or “engaged” when the relationship is serious. There’s often no real proposal or ring, so with P and me, we’ve pretty much been engaged since about Day 2 following the whole fateful wind-blown jean jacket thing.

But let’s just call the engagement procedure a cross-cultural difference and move along.

(2) While we’re on the subject of P, One Smart Cookie asked me what he’s like and to name my favorite thing about him.

P gets short-changed a bit on the blog–mostly by his choice, of course–so I thank Ms Cookie for the opportunity to brag a bit.

P is probably someone you wouldn’t notice in a crowd because he’s a keen observer and quiet in groups (except with his closest friends of course). In line with that is that he’s quite pensive and sensitive even though most people who know him wouldn’t think that. And, despite being quiet and a bit shy, he’s actually quite demonstrative of his feelings for me, both verbally and physically.

He’s thoughtful to a fault, always worrying about whether I’m taken care of before he thinks of taking care of himself. One day after we met but before either of us had expressed any kind of feelings, I was walking to the grocery store when I saw him up ahead run toward an older woman struggling to carry her groceries. He didn’t know I was watching as his back was to me and he couldn’t have seen me coming, but that innocent scene? I won’t say it’s the moment I fell in love with him, but I was definitely on the way.

And he’s just sweet–if he goes somewhere without me, he always brings me something back, and I don’t mean he buys something. We’re not exactly rolling in cash and I’m not one for expensive shows of affection anyway (good combo, eh?), so I’m always so touched when he comes home with a perfect shell from the beach after he’s been fishing or the first almond blossom of the season from our tree.

He’s also smart and handsome, makes me laugh *a lot*, can fix just about anything, is an excellent cook, and knows that he should remain calm when I’m freaking out.

The best thing I like about him? He makes me feel so very, truly loved each and every day.

(3) Shifting gears but not questioners, One Smart Cookie also asked how frequently I visit the United States and when I visit, what I can’t wait to see/eat/visit/do.

I haven’t been back to the US since February-June 2004. I want to go back to visit, it just hasn’t happened yet for various reasons, not the least of which being the expense.

The thing I enjoy doing most when I go home is spending time with my family and friends, doing all the stuff that I used to do everyday with them: yard sales on Saturday mornings, trying all different restaurants with my mom, hanging out in Dunkin’ Donuts, Italian restaurants, or friends’ houses to talk and talk and talk. Catching up, generally.

Ah, and I also look forward to eating everything that my mom cooks and bakes. I’ve posted a list of what I miss about the States, but the longer I’m here, the less important those “things” are, and it’s really only the people I miss terribly.

(4) Related to “home” questions, Anno asked “When you think of home, where is it?” and whether I think I’ll return to the States.

Cheesy answers acceptable? Good.

My home is truly where my heart is. I’ve learned over the years that I can make a home anywhere that my heart is committed to, and a lot of my heart is here. P is a big part of that, of course, so I’m comfortable with saying this is my home. Indeed, if I were in the US visiting, I’d know I’d refer to here as home.

That said, the house and town where I grew up in America will always be my home too–a lot of my heart is there as well. And I refer to it as “home” when I’m here. No one ever said you couldn’t have two (or more) homes, right? Life is too short for arbitrary decisions, I say!

Do I think I’ll return to the States? To live permanently? Probably not. Even though it’s not all cappuccino and afternoon naps on this side of the pond, I am really, genuinely happy here. Plus I can’t imagine moving my whole life again, but I suppose never say never.

(5) And last but certainly not least for today, the always lovely and inspiring SomePinkFlowers wants to know:

what did you do/ with all your childhood STUFF/ when you moved to italy?/all those bits of memory things…/ i guess what i’m asking is this,/ are there bits of your life still stored/ in the states somewhere/or/ did you majorly purge/ and then move everything left completely…/ i am thinking christmas ornaments,/ high school annuals, dental charts,/ those typoes of things…/ whatwhowhenhow?/[one question, really.].

I think you can see why I didn’t paraphrase. Isn’t that just a beautiful question?

Anyway, I have a lot of stuff in a storage unit back in America–formerly my mom’s basement until she moved into an apartment. Now we are renting something out until I get back, clean it out, keep and ship (or pack) what I want, and purge the rest.

What’s in there? Well, I have *so* many books, including old textbooks from college and law school that I’d love to have here, but I don’t know if they’ll ever all make it. My Kennedy research collection, yearbooks, photo albums, loose photos, my grandmother’s things, items from church rituals (Baptism, Communion, Confirmation), old report cards, ceramics I made in high school, paintings, drawings, journals, newspaper clippings, memory boxes, holiday decorations, many cards and notes and letters, a collection of baseball memorabilia (old catcher’s masks, shoes, balls, posters). . . .

Not a whole lot from actual childhood, although there are still some random toys and whatnot in my father’s attic. Maybe. My children’s books were damaged in a roof leak, unfortunately, and that’s all that was really important to me of that stuff.

My master plan, to link all of today’s questions together in fact, is that someday P and I will travel to America and spend a few days going through this stuff so I can decide what to do with it once and for all.

He’ll have *so* much fun!

I didn’t mention that he can be rather impatient up in Number 2, did I? Ah, selective descriptioning.

Until next time, then.

moaning meme monday

I’m sure that you, Dear Reader, get a certain impression of me from reading this here blog thingee. Perhaps because I tend to focus on the positive and keep it light, you, DR, think I’m like that in everyday, real life as well.

And to some extent, I am.

But truth be told, I’m not sure that “positive and light” is even the majority of my personality. I can be quite snarky, catty, and complainy, indeed–just ask P. But those aren’t traits I want to take over the other parts of my personality.


Because as fun as a smart ass remark is every now and again (*so* fun!), too many can add up a lot of negative energy that I don’t think will help me live a good, peaceful life–and I definitely want that–or help the world at large. There’s enough negativity out there without my adding to it.

And so I try to keep this little corner of these Internets mostly positive and light, hoping that maybe, just maybe that part will sink in, will become the norm inside of me, will bleed into my cynicism and negativity and at least counteract them a bit.

I wouldn’t want those baddies to disappear completely, though, because then I’m afraid I wouldn’t be me. In fact, I’d probably be more like the Dalai Lama (yes he has a website), and I’m just not up for that kind of responsibility.

Have you ever been told to act like you fit in and people will believe it, and eventually so will you? That’s kind of how I feel about this whole living and blogging process, within myself I mean. Over the past several months, I’ve been positive and looking on the bright side more than ever, sometimes even when I don’t *feel* it–and you know what?

I’m starting to believe it, to be it, and I’m really, truly happier.

But that doesn’t mean I have my moments.

So here (after the longest intro to a meme ever) is a great opportunity from The Freelance Cynic to share just one:

5 people who will be annoyed you tagged them.

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth.

  • A certain administration of a certain “world power”
  • Anyone who abuses other people or animals
  • People who talk too loudly on public transportation
  • People who troll the Internet looking to start trouble

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently.

  • Not re-evaluate their beliefs every once in a while, if not regularly
  • Not simply appreciate being alive every day
  • Get medically unnecessary plastic surgery

2 things you find yourself moaning about.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself.

  • If I were omnipotent, I’d solve the problem of world overpopulation with those first four moans.


  • Link to theoriginal meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it’s all about!
  • Be as honest as possible. This is about letting people get to know the real you!
  • Try not to insult anyone – unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
  • Post these rules at the end of every meme!

Even if I haven’t tagged you, please feel free to play along. I see that my She Who Blogs buddy Jennie Boo has already played, and I hope you will too.

Misery loves company!


[tags]memes, the moaning meme[/tags]

love thursday: chased by a cloud part II

Remember when I posted a photo of a heart-shaped cloud that snuck into a photo of a cactus I was taking? If not, you can find it here.

This morning as I was working on yet another last minute translation project (seems to be the only kind this particular organization gives me), I looked outside of my balcony door and saw this:

Can you see a heart?
P tells me I’m crazy, but I see one in there.

To the left of that was this:

Now there you see a heart, right?

To the right was this:

Which I maintain is an angel or fairy with big strong wings, but
feel free to tell me what you see.

And while you’re at it, for fun, what do you see here?
(besides the ugly roof and satellite dish)

I have some ideas but I want to hear you you think first–
and no, my thoughts don’t involve hearts.

And yes, I did finish the translation, thankyouverymuch.


Happy Love Thursday everyone!


[tags] love thursday, hearts, clouds, heart clouds[/tags]

what’s cooking wednesday: bruschetta al pomodoro

I’m not going to lie to you–I’m not cooking a whole lot these days. Throughout the summer we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, doing very little to even try to flavor them because, quite honestly, they just don’t need it.

So for this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday, I’m offering you something fast, easy, and delicious: Bruschetta al Pomodoro, or Bruschetta with Tomatoes–grilled bread topped with a summery mix of fresh tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and olive oil.

But before we get to the recipe, a little more on bruschetta:

First of all, we should start with something very basic: it’s pronounced “brew-SKET-tah” and not as many in America have heard, “brew-SHET-tah.” If you want to impress Italians, this is a good one to stick in your back pocket.

The origins of bruschetta are said to date back to the 15th century in central Italy (Rome and Tuscany fight over this) when olive oil makers brought bread to the mills and toasted it over a small fire used to keep warm during the November and December production. Then they poured freshly made olive oil over the bread to test it, perhaps rubbing in some garlic first, and early bruschetta was born.

Indeed, the term bruschetta actually refers to the bread and olive oil combination–the tomatoes were an (ingenious) afterthought, and it’s how most of us know this toasted bread combo today.

As you might imagine, the quality of olive oil greatly affects the quality of the bruschetta, so try to get the best you can for this recipe.

The bread though? This is perfect for using up that great loaf that went stale (and indeed, this is probably what made it so popular in Italy before it spread to the rest of the world).

Bruschetta al Pomodoro
(Bruschetta with Tomatoes)

*makes 6 pieces

6 thick slices Italian or French style bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large, ripe tomatoes (or more if smaller), diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
4 large basil leaves, chopped
sprinkling of oregano and salt

Prepare the tomato mixture first to give the flavors time to blend.

A note on preparing the tomatoes, especially if they are rather juicy, you might want to give them a squeeze before dicing to get rid of excess juice; otherwise the mixture gets a little runny and messy once you try to put it on the bread. Some also recommend cleaning out all the seeds, which you can do as well, but I don’t. And if you don’t like skins, parboil the tomatoes for a minute in boiling water just removed from the burner and then peel with a sharp knife.

In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, olive oil, basil, oregano, and salt to taste. (You can use either oregano or basil as well–both are not necessary.)

Grill or toast bread. I do mine with a grill pan on the stove, but you can use a broiler, the oven, a toaster, whatever works for you.

When the bread is toasted and still hot, rub well with the “raw” side of the garlic cloves.

Spoon the tomato mixture on top, and serve hot.

Other notes:

  • I’ve seen some recipes that call for the garlic chopped up and in the mixture with tomatoes, which is another option, but for me, it’s too strong of a garlic flavor; I, obviously, do as described above.
  • Feel free to play with this recipe adding whatever you like to the mixture–black olives, capers, cheese, other grilled vegetables. It’s very versatile and great for a summer (or anytime) party.

Buon appetito!


[tags]bruschetta, bruschetta al pomodoro, bruschetta with tomatoes, tomatoes, appetizers, recipes, what’s cooking wednesday[/tags]

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time.

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