Marcello Canova's pesto recipe will lead him abroad -- and he's taking along a retinue of travelers.

Canova won the first Columbus Pesto Championship -- using a mortar and pestle and seven ingredients -- in October at the Columbus Italian Festival.

That earned Canova, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State University, a spot to compete against 99 others in March in the Genoa World Pesto Championship in Italy.

Canova, 40, said he is a native of Mantua, Italy. He studied for his doctorate degree at Ohio State while working at the Center for Automotive Research in 2004 and 2005. He eventually joined the Ohio State faculty in in 2010.

"I've been cooking every day since I got to Columbus, and cooking is one of my favorite hobbies," Canova said. "In a previous life, before I started to be a busy professor, I used to host several dinner parties, where I would entertain friends with traditional Italian dishes from my region.

"Pasta with pesto is one of the easiest and most common recipes in Italy for everyday dishes, so I learned quickly how to make it. I started with the blender -- everyone cheats -- but I switched to the traditional mortar and pestle one year ago and never looked back."

Officials from the city of Columbus and Greater Columbus Sister Cities International, which sponsored the local contest, said Canova's win provides an opportunity for a dozen other residents to experience Columbus' first Sister City, which was designated in 1955.

In addition to attending the World Pesto Championship, the sister-cities organization is seeking delegates to travel to Genoa from March 10 to 18 to experience its art and culture.

The trip will be led by professor Kay Bea Jones from the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State.

Residents interested in signing up can go to columbussistercities.com. A down payment of $1,500 will be accepted through Feb. 9 from those applying to be considered for the trip.

A group associated with Greater Columbus Sister Cities International will decide the final list of travelers, said Sameen Dadfar, program manager for the organization.

The trip will cost each traveler $3,900, which includes lodging, meals, transportation, admission fees to museums and landmarks and other charges associated with the visit, Dadfar said.

Participants will visit several historic spots and meet Mayor Marco Bucci; Roberto Panizza, the founder of the Genoa World Pesto Championship; and such local artists as Timothy Costa, who created a project titled "1,000 People of Genoa" in which he photographed the faces of 1,000 people. Costa said he did so to show the diversity and natural beauty of mankind.

"Greater Columbus Sister Cities International is grateful to our first sister city of Genoa, Italy, for providing us with the connections that led to having Columbus compete in the Genoa World Pesto Championship," said Tim Sword, president of the organization. "We are looking forward to seeing Marcello represent Columbus on our upcoming exchange program."

Canova said his hometown is northeast of Genoa, and he called the upcoming competition both thrilling and stressful.

"I'm very excited about competing in my home country and I look forward to the challenge," he said. "It will be very difficult to compete against experienced natives from Genoa, who make pesto every day.

"In any case, I am proud for the opportunity to represent Columbus at this competition and I'll give it my best shot."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary