I think it’s safe to say that my favorite Italian pasta preparation of all time is pesto genovese, and if you know me well, you’ll agree. I find the aroma of basic, garlic, pignoli, olive oil, parmesan and pecorino irresistible…and it’s even better on the palate, with green forkful after green forkful elevating my insatiable pesto appetite. I love making pesto sauce but to be honest, for something so simple, it’s quite quite difficult to get just right. It’s either hit or miss and those days when it’s hit, I never manage to fully grasp what exactly I did correctly so that I may follow suit next time. Anyhoo, I digress.
I ordered chef Arturo Maggi’s testaroli al pesto alla genovese at Latteria di San Marco restaurant in Milan recently and not only did the perfectly pesto-y green sauce wow me, (I know from experience that a pesto so verdant isn’t always easy), but I loved that it was served over a bed of testaroli instead of trofie.
I am loathe to admit that I had never had the pleasure of tasting testaroli before and now, I’m determined to make up for lost time. This ancient preparation is believed to date back to Roman times though it does have roots in Lunigiana, a historical territory that falls in what today are the provinces of La Spezia and Massa Carrara.
Now, testaroli, typical of Liguria, isn’t so much a pasta as it is more of a pancake, made from water, flour and salt. The batter is cooked on wood until the pancake grows a few millimeters thick, inside a special container called a “testo” that historically was made of terra cotta though now usually cast iron.
The beauty of the testaroli al pesto Genovese at Latteria di San Marco restaurant in Milan was how each piece was soft, yet sturdy. After mixing the sauce so that deep green color in the center dispersed around the plate, into a lighter hue as it thinned out while covering all the testaroli, which quite impressively never absorbed the sauce to the point of sogginess….no small feat given their fluffy pancake-like texture. I inhaled the distinct pesto aroma and then dug in, the sauce was perfectly balanced–never did one flavor overshadow another– complementing ribbon-like testaroli beautifully. It was just so simple and satisfying and flawless. Honestly, I wanted a second helping but I restrained myself.
Now the menu at Latteria di San Marco restaurant in Milan changes daily, so here’s to hoping I’m lucky enough to nosh on Arturo Maggi’s testaroli al pesto Genovese a second time!
La Latteria di San Marco; Via S. Marco, 24; +39 02 659 7653; no website; cash only.
Note: this article originally appeared on Sauce Milan.