Wash the basil, strip off the leaves and tear them in pieces. Pound the peeled garlic cloves with a little salt in the mortar, add the pine kernels and pound again. Put in the basil, pound some more. When all is reduced to a molecular state, add the olive oil and stir in the grated cheese.
Serve with fresh trenette or tagliatelle, cooked al dente.
Variations of this pesto occur well beyond the limits of the Ligurian coast where it originates. South of La Spezia, this dressing is sometimes achieved by chopping the ingredients finely instead of pounding them. Sometimes walnuts, especially in autumn when newly gathered, are used instead of pine kernels.
In speaking of fresh tagliatelle, I do not mean that you have necessarily made it yourself. In many towns there are pastificii where pasta is made daily in great variety and displayed. It is inspiring to visit pastificio in Lucca, for example, and examine the delicately made confections for past’asciutta and pasta in brodo. These shops are situated in the vicinity of the Roman amphitheatre; this magnificent space is ringed round with old houses of varying sizes fitted into the husk of the amphitheatre and thus reminding one more of Canaletto than of Piranesi. For many years the interior space was enlivened by the presence of the wholesale vegetable market.
When in Venice, find your way to the garden restaurant of Locanda Montin (behind the Accademia, near San Trovaso) and sitting in an ivy-clad arbour begin the meal with Malfatti alia panna. These little ‘badly made’ envelopes of pasta stuffed with ground breast of chicken and lamb’s sweetbreads are cooked like ravioli for a few moments in boiling water, are whisked out with a perforated ladle when they rise to the surface, and immersed in a cream sauce flavoured with nutmeg. This restaurant of grateful memory, and one-time haunt of D’Annunzio, has always been the patron of hungry artists; evidence of this are their teeming works which line the walls indoors.