Some of my best travel experiences are unplanned…
I had spent most of the day hiking the fishing villages in Cinque Terre, Italy and my legs begged for an afternoon break. Nessun Dorma, a wine bar perched high on a cliff in Manarola, was the perfect place to recover with the town’s best scenic view as a bonus!
Their strawberries with sugar and lemon was a refreshing partner to my glass of local wine.
Then the best surprise…I discovered morning pesto classes were available here! Pesto classes in Italy’s most famous pesto region PLUS this view again…I immediately signed up for the next morning’s class.
Class started with each of us picking our own basil leaves from the restaurant’s small private garden. I was off with my small bowl and the instructions to only choose the small top leaves.
The necessary ingredients were ready for us…garlic, sea salt, tender pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.
Plus extra virgin olive oil will be added as the last step.
Simone, our instructor and owner of Nessun Dorma, gave us his first Secrect to great pesto…he immediately placed ice cubes on top of our freshly picked basil leaves. The ice kept the leaves fresh and retained their beautiful green color for the pesto.
Simone is a perfectionist when it comes to flavor and taught us to cut out the tiny stem that runs through the garlic clove before crushing .
Then the fun began…in our mortars, we mixed sea salt and 1 big garlic clove until a white cream paste.
After removing the ice and drainng any water, we added our basil leaves, a sprinkle of pine nuts, and started more grinding.
Now time to add Parmesan cheese. Simone leaves nothing to chance and insists we use Parmesan cheese that has aged 24 months.
I was excited as we added our last ingredient, extra virgin olive oil.
My most interesting discovery was the flavor difference between pesto made in a “new” marble mortar (on the left ) vs made in a seasoned, marble mortar from 1920s (on the right).
Simone had told us at the beginning of the class we would experience a flavor difference between the two mortars.
Seeing is believing !
The pesto in the older mortar was smoother and sweeter! (I am now searching for an aged mortar to bring home.)
Simone’s passion for food and non-stop enthusiasm made his pesto class the highlight of my Cinque Terre trip.