Imperia | Carli Oil Emporium

Olio Carli has just opened a 700 square meter showroom in Imperia, close to the French border.
The shop sells a huge range of olive oils as well as local products like sun-dried tomatoes, preserved vegetables and sauces, and obviously pesto made with Carli Olive Oil. I found some wonderful stuff in the beauty care section too: creams, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics, all with an olive oil base.

The space has become a hive of culinary activity, hosting chefs from all over Italy to do cooking and tasting courses all year round. The Carli family have been in the business for generations, and also run a fascinating Olive Oil Museum you may want to visit while in town.

People in Liguria boast that real pesto can only be made with local basil and extra virgin olive oil from Liguria (a lot fruitier and less aggressive than that coming from other regions), and insist the ingredients have to be crushed by hand in a marble mortar.

If you want to try making it at home, here’s the original recipe that dates back to the 1800s and doesn’t cut corners:

50 grams of basil leaves, preferably the variety grown in Liguria, and only small leaves from young plants, no stems;

half a glass of extra virgin olive oil, must be from Liguria;

grated cheese, 6 tablespoons of Parimigiano Reggiano and 2 of pecorino, both DOP;

garlic, two cloves, grown in Italy not the Chinese import;

pine nuts, 1 tablespoon;

coarse salt, a couple of granules;

patience, a lot.

Use a marble mortar and wooden pestle. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Here goes.
Wash the basil leaves with cold water and dry well with a clean cloth. Crush the garlic in the mortar. Add a couple of granules of salt and crush. Add about 30 basil leaves and crush. The oils and aroma of the basil are in the veins of the leaves, so don’t be aggressive when crushing; use a gentle, rotating motion. Keep at it, adding a few more leaves at a time and the pine nuts, again not all at once! Add the cheese, one spoon at a time, alternating with a drizzle of olive oil until you’ve included all the ingredients.

Use it as a sauce for trofie, put some into a minestrone or try it instead of a stock cube in other dishes.Variations on the theme include substituting the basil with rocket or the pine nuts with walnuts.