Pesto On Fork

In modern times the term Pesto has become a generic name for just about any combination of herbs blended with garlic, olive oil, nuts and cheese. However, the original Pesto is from Genoa in the Liguria region of Italy and is basil based and contains pignoli (pine nuts). Some people are turned off by the pignoli and may not want to use them, but for me they have always been as essential as the basil.

I remember once a few years back at our local farmer’s market, there was one vendor that specialized in the hard sell. They would offer you a “special deal” if you bought 2 balls of mozzarella instead of one. Always trying to talk you into buying that one extra thing. It typically doesn’t bother me, but once I bought some bread and mozzarella from them, and after trying to convince me to buy extra mozzarella and bread the guy asked me “Do you want some pesto to go with that?” I politely declined saying that I like to make my own pesto. Even after I paid he was undeterred, saying “Are you sure? No pignoli in this pesto!” As if that was a big selling point. As I walked away I responded “Then I really don’t want it! It’s not Pesto without pignoli.”

Pesto

I have mellowed out since then and I try not to be quite so inflexible any more. After all, someone might look at my recipe and criticize it for using a food processor and not a mortar and pestle, which is the traditional method (the name pesto actually comes from the word pestare, which means to pound or grind). You may have a really good reason for leaving out the pignoli (allergy, for instance), but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some nice fresh basil in the summer and enjoy this classic pasta dish.

Trenette is a narrow, flat pasta that is common in Liguria, where pesto originated, but if you can’t find it, linguine is always a good substitute. In Genoa, the capital of Liguria, they often make this with potatoes and green beans, as seen in the Disney/Pixar movie Luca. I have included alternate instructions for making it this way, Trenetto al Pesto Genovese, if you came looking for that version.

Trenette Al Pesto

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Pesto On Fork

Trenette al Pesto


  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound of trenette pasta or linguine
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese

For Trenette al Pesto, Genovese, with Potatoes and Green Beans

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound green beans, washed and ends broken off

Instructions

  1. Put 1/2 cup of olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and a nice pinch of salt in a food processor or blender, start mixing and add the basil a few leaves at a time processing to a creamy consistency.
  2. Stir in the cheese by hand, mixing well. I find this achieves a much better consistency than if you blend the cheese in using the food processor or blender.
  3. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Add the trenette and cook until al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the pesto, turn heat on low and heat through.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup of water from the pot then drain pasta and add to sauté pan with pesto, and turn the heat up to medium. Add the reserved pasta water and stir vigorously, coating the pasta completely with the sauce.
  6. Transfer the pasta to individual serving plates and serve immediately.

For Trenette al Pesto, Genovese, with Potatoes and Green Beans

  1. Prepare the pesto as instructed in steps 1-2 above.
  2. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Cut the green beans into 1 inch pieces and add the potatoes and green beans to the boiling water. Cook until just tender, about 10 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add the trenette to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the pesto, turn heat on low and heat through.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup of water from the pot then drain pasta and add to sauté pan with pesto, and turn the heat up to medium.
  6. Add the potatoes, green beans and the reserved pasta water and toss well, coating the pasta and vegetables completely with the sauce.
  7. Transfer the pasta to individual serving plates and serve immediately.


8 Responses

  1. Excellent recipe! I totally agree about the generalization of pesto – pesto is truly what this recipe is in my mind. My mother and one sister’s husband still make it this way (I hope anyway) – now I can make it at home. Thank you! I think my brother in law still might even use the mortar & pestle – so I’ll send him a pat on the back from “the italian chef” Thanks for posting!

  2. I just made a big batch the other day, and make it your way. Small World. I use it on Ravioli, Pasta, Pierogi, and sometimes on a sandwich as a spread.

  3. Grow basil specifically to make pesto during the summer as well as freezing the ingredients less the cheese to get through the non basil season during the winter. Any suggestions on how to prevent the basil from darkening after using the food processor? Have heard blanching my help but hesitant about the boiling water. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks,

  4. too much oil. Measured the oil perfectly and there was a soup of oil on the bottom of every plate. You should also add the cheese in the food processor (every other recipe says the same) when we followed it this way, the cheese solidified and didn’t spread evenly

  5. Way to much oil I mean I wouldn’t know if it was good or not I’m only 17 and I love cooking so I wanted to try this and I did everything right but it really taste like nothing it was a very plain dish i really wasn’t impressed but at least it’s edible.

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