This unique and delicious green sauce has a history that dates back as far as the 1800s in Liguria, a coastal region of Italy bordering Tuscany in the northeast. Liguria is known for its amazing basil, the main flavor ingredient of this very local and unique pasta sauce called “pesto al la Genovese.”
Pesto is a simple combination of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, grated parmigiana reggiano and pecorino romano cheese ground together with a mortar and pestle in a rustic traditional style and then finally blended with regional olive oil and sea salt to create a creamy and deliciously flavorful sauce.
This sauce is wonderful in all seasons for pasta dishes and works best when basil is at its peak of freshness. I grow my own fresh basil in my patio giardino; you can always find fresh basil at your local food store or farmer’s market.
Named after the capital city of Liguria (Genoa), this pasta dish is bold, refreshing and always a family favorite during any season of the year. Traditionally, the pasta used for this dish is trenette, a fettuccine shaped pasta. I sometimes use a smaller shape like trofie or campagnelle that hold this gorgeous green sauce beautifully.
The people of Genoa make this classic recipe using just the pasta, but the locals are known to add the green beans and potatoes along with the pasta to create a hearty nutritional dish.
Make this pasta dish when you are bored of the same old red sauce and are looking for something simple and really delicious for a weekday dinner or quiet weekend meal.
trenette al pesto genovese with green beans & potatoes
1 lb. of trenette or fettuccine pasta (homemade or dry)
Note: You can use smaller shaped pasta here as I mentioned above like trofie, campanelle or even mini penne.
1/2 to 1 lb. fresh green beans (cleaned, trimmed and french cut)
approx. 1/2 pound of red or white small creamier potatoes (washed, skin on)
for the pesto sauce
approx 3-3 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (washed & trimmed)
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 to 1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 to 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese & pecorino romano cheese (combined)
good quality olive oil
Bring a large stock pot to filled with water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender. Remove from the water (reserve the water for continued use) and allow to cool.
Prepare the green beans by french cutting them which is basically splitting them lengthwise and making sure they are about bite size proportions.
I prefer this thinner cut to keeping them whole in this recipe so when they are added to the cooked pasta they are easier to eat and are more flavorful per bite.
Blanch the green beans until tender, remove from the water and set aside to drain (reserving the water for later use.)
Peel the potatoes and you can slice them into thin rounds or if you prefer, small chunks. I prefer using thinner rounds of potato as the sauce seems to coat them better giving the dish maximum flavor overall.
Add more water to the stock pot reserved water and bring to a boil. Prepare the pesto by placing the fresh basil leaves, chunks of peeled garlic, grated cheese, pine nuts and sea salt to taste in a food processor or mortar for grinding.
Bring this mixture to a fine grind; slowly drizzle in olive oil and blend or grind until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust by adding salt or more olive oil if needed.
Set aside. Cook the pasta until “al dente” in the boiling water with sea salt added now. Once cooked to your preference; remove the pasta; reserving the cooking liquid.
Place the cooked pasta, green beans and potatoes in a large deep bowl and add the pesto sauce. Mix well; adding some of the cooking liquid in small amounts to thin out the sauce and allow it to coat all the ingredients well.
The sauce should look creamy and coat each and every strand of pasta, green bean and potato for best flavor quality. Serve immediately with extra grated cheese for the table, if desired.
Note: Photography provided by Annette L. Venditti & Carina A. Favale