A Brief History Of The World Pesto Championships

Pesto World Championship Ingredients

Held virtually in 2020 for reasons that don’t need explaining, the World Pesto Championships were set up by the Palatifini Cultural Association in 2007. The event takes place every 2-years at the stunning Doge's Palace in Genoa, the home town of the traditional basil pesto.

The championships were established to promote, celebrate and safeguard not just the region of Liguria, the quality of their ingredients, but the traditional and authentic pesto recipe which the Italians hold so dear to their hearts. A strong undercurrent of the event is the ultimate desire for pesto alla Genovese to become a protected asset and be formally recognised by Unesco as a product of intangible cultural heritage.

World Pesto Championship and sponsors logos

Participants from around the globe – from Brazil to China - compete in national heats and the winners of those heats travel to the Grand Final where they compete alongside 99 other pesto makers. The 30 judges are made up of chefs, restauranteurs, food critics and professional testers. The Championships are open to both professionals and amateurs - and children get a look in too with their own mini competition.

One of the most interesting things about the championships is how every participant is required to work with identical ingredients and equipment. There is a strict 40-minute time limit and blenders and food processors must be left at the door. The very best Genovese pesto can only be made with a wooden pestle and marble mortar.

The Official World Pesto Championship Logo

The limited ingredients mean the overall winner is judged not on their ingenuity of recipe creation - after all, the organisers would argue there is only one pesto recipe - but on their skill in working with the ingredients to produce the winning colour, mouthfeel and balance of flavours.

The winner of the championship is awarded with a pestle made of olive-tree wood with a gold-plated handle. Although the winners tend to be Italian, this isn't always the case. In 2008 the prestigious prize was awarded to the Korean-American chef, Danny Bowien.

The World Pesto Championships president is Roberto Panizza, a charismatic figure who has become the face of pesto in Italy and around the world. His time is split between running his restaurant, Il Genovese, and promoting pesto around the world.

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