We spent two great days with the Sacla Company on probably the hottest day of the year in Asti, Italy. So imagine this, I stood in the huge fields of basil filming various pieces to camera, dressed in a black t-shirt, long trousers almost fainting, whilst the 3 man crew all stripped off to shorts and bandanas. Mmmmm, Hard work, yes, but nevertheless fascinating.
We flew to Genoa and then transferred to Portofino by car. The landing at a blustery Genoa airport was probably the scariest landing I have ever had, even the crew; veterans of global filming seemed scared. However, once we recovered off, we went to Portofino, only 40 minutes from Genoa.
The scenery is spectacular, and it’s worth driving yourself. Just take your time, and care. Italians are good but mad drivers. Once at Portofino, we looked for the famous Puny Trattoria to meet owner Luigi Miroli. He obviously had had a bad nights sleep. He really did not want to film with us, all slightly embarrassing. Although we wanted to film him making pesto in his restaurant, the classic Ligurian speciality, he clearly did not want to even though we had contacted him some days earlier.
After a long discussion and plenty of black coffee, I suspect, he decided it was okay, thank goodness, and introduced us to his chef. They did not speak English. We spoke pigeon Italian. Thank goodness we had an interpreter. He explained that his pesto was a creamy variety, adding mascarpone to the pesto, a local twist to this Italian staple. We filmed and ate his linguine; I have to say it was a spectacular, creamy, very rich and brilliant green. After a long lunch at this restaurant, we drove back to Asti to meet up with Giuseppe Ercole, a long time pesto maker at probably the most famous brand in Italy, Sacla.
The company has been making pesto for 80 years. The company has been passed down through the generations. Today, they are the biggest olive packer in Italy and have a huge pesto business in Italy and the UK.
We spent the afternoon filming the process from the hot basil fields right through to the end product, a jar of classic pesto.
The basil is cut from the fields early in the morning. Only the top couple of branches are taken. The basil plant will grow again, giving you probably 3 cuts per season; it’s a very sturdy plant.
The basil is transported to the Sacla factory in Asti. Here it’s washed several times, then pureed, sieved, then blended with Parmesan cheese, oil, garlic, salt, pine nuts, cashew nuts to produce the green gold that we are all familiar with. Then, jarred, pasteurised and cooled. Giuseppe told me they produce 150,000 a day at the peak of production, a great product, carefully made.