PESTO ALLA GENOVESE AT THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ITALIAN CUISINES

All around the world, Pesto alla Genovese will be showcased on January 17 to mark the International Day of Italian Cuisines. Chefs who are members of itchefs-GVCI will prepare and serve this dish according to Italian culinary tradition to promote unity and signify authenticity of Italian products.  Each year since 2008, a different authentic Italian dish has been selected for this honor.

In anticipation of the event, an industry workshop was held at The Italian Culinary Academy on January 12.  Chef Cesare Casella, Dean of the Italian Culinary Academy and owner of the acclaimed Salumeria Rosi presented a series of seminars and tastings featuring authentic Italian products, some familiar, and some not.

The first was corzetti, a coin shaped pasta from Liguria.  Chef Andrea della Gatta talked about the history of this pasta as a poor man’s food while he prepared a sauce made with artichokes, zucchini, shrimp, tomato concasse, extra virgin olive oil and basil tossed with marjoram-flavored corzetti that had been imported from Genoa.  He pointed out that the dish was hardly poor man’s food any more since shrimp now cost about $35 a pound in Liguria.   Unfortunately, the corzetti, which were frozen, are not available in this country.

Next up were fish products from Typical Italian Fish Food, or TIFF, a company seeking to establish itself in the States.  TIFF produces fish “salumi” made with salmon, palamita — a kind of bluefish, and a type of small tuna called alletterati.  These are ground with spices to make salame, or dried and sliced like bottarga, or ground into a fine “flour” for tossing with pasta or seasoning salads.

Lou di Palo, or Di Palo Fine Foods presented the next items:  two very different extra virgin olive oils, one from Liguria and the other from Sicily, followed by lentils from Norcia, San Marzano Tomatoes, and Grana Padano, a fine aged cow’s milk cheese.  The cheese was tangy and creamy at the same time and would be featured the next day in the preparation of the Pesto alla Genovese.

Ferrarelle water both sparkling and still, a perfect palate cleanser, was next followed by a demo of kitchen appliances by DeLonghi, a 100-year old manufacturer headquartered in Treviso.  Their food processor has the unique ability to weight the foods added to the work bowl, a real boon to the cook especially when baking.

On January 13, Chef Della Gatta returned to the auditorium of the Italian Culinary Academy to demonstrate Pesto alla Genovese made the traditional way with a mortar and pestle.  It seemed an odd choice of a recipe to demonstrate at this time of year in icy New York, where the temperature outside hovered in the low twenties, but just the thought of a fragrant plate of pasta sauced with fresh emerald-green pesto was enough to get me thinking warm thoughts of sunshine and summer gardens.

For more information about Pesto alla Genovese and the traditional recipe go to www.itchefs-gvci.com.  For additional information about the Italian Culinary Academy visit www.ItalianCulinaryAcademy.com.

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    • Michele Scicolone