Pasta with pesto sauce is a dish that Americans either love or hate; but it is rare that you will find pesto made the way it is supposed to be made, with troffie or trenette pasta, green beans and potatoes. I know you are probably rolling your eyes at this point, but this is the authentic pesto of the Ligurian coast, the way the locals make it. The thought of pasta and potatoes together seems a little like carb overkill, but it’s delicious. The other little known fact is that the basil in Liguria is DOP certified, the leaves are small, the flavor a bit less intense than the larger leaved basil that we have in the states. Ligurian olive oil is another addition that makes this pesto so special.
The word pesto comes from the word pestare, which means to pound. Genovese for centuries have used a mortar and pestle to make their pesto, but as one shop keeper said to me, now the mortar and pestle are used for flowers! Kitchen electrics have taken over, even here in the land of slow food.
This is the recipe for an authentic Pasta Pesto Genovese, I hope you’ll try it.
Pasta Pesto Genovese
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes (any low starch potato will do here, like reds or white creamers) cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 pound trofie or trenette pasta
1 1/2 cups packed small leaved basil
1 garlic clove (2 if they are small)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (you can do 2 Tb. pecorino and 2 Tb. Parmigiano if you would like) plus more garnish
1/4 cup ITALIAN pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
- Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil, and add the potatoes, cooking them 4 minutes, add the green beans, and cook another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the pasta water and keep warm.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water, and while the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.
- Combine the basil, garlic, cheese and pine nuts in a food processor or blender (blender is actually better) and process on and off until the basil and nuts are chopped.
- With the machine running, add the oil, until the mixture becomes pureed. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if needed.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and save a bit of the pasta water. Toss the pasta, green beans and potatoes with 1/3 cup of the pesto and a bit of the pasta water. Serve garnished with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- If you are storing pesto in the refrigerator, pour a bit of olive oil over the top surface, to keep the pesto from turning a darker green. Also, pesto freezes beautifully, so plan to make a nice batch and freeze the leftovers in zip-lock bags---the pesto doesn't freeze rock hard, so you can stir it into rice, or pasta or dollop a teaspoon over a bowl of steaming minestrone soup.
Cook’s note: with the proximity of Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano is the preferred cheese of the Genovese, but you can use all Pecorino, or 1/2 and 1/2 as you like.