Trofie al Pesto
Nothing says summer like pesto, and it's surprisingly quick and easy to make! This recipe is a traditional Ligurian preparation which includes potatoes and string beans. It's the way my Nonna used to make it. It's thick and creamy and when the hot pasta hits the pesto, it releases a heavenly perfume! The traditional way of making it is with a mortar and pestle, but If you don't have one, you can use a food processor and just blitz all the ingredients together, but while I've done it a hundred times, (and it's incredible) I have to agree with the purists on this one… a mortar and pestle knocks it out of the ballpark, plus it's kind of fun. You might even get the kids in on it! This recipe makes a generous cup of pesto, so you may have a bit left over. Not to worry, it tastes good on just about everything from scrambled eggs and omelettes, to pizza, sandwiches or salmon. Be creative! It would be hard to go wrong.A note about the pasta: Traditionally, this dish would be made with trofie, a small twisted pasta that can sometimes be difficult to find in major supermarkets. If you can't find trofie, I would substitute another short pasta, like conchiglie, or penne.
Yield: 1 cup of pesto
For the Pesto
- 6 cups Basil leaves Genoese basil, young leaves
- 4 tbspns Pine Nuts
- 1 clove Garlic
- 2 heaping tbspns Ricotta cheese
- 2 heaping tbspns Plain yogurt
- Olive Oil qb
- 1/4 heaping tspn Sea Salt
For the Pasta
- 1 pound Trofie or substitute any other short pasta
- 1 cups Potatoes cut into 1" chunks
- 1 cups Small, fresh green beans
- Parmiggiano Reggiano qb
- 1 cup Pasta water Reserved
For the Pesto
- A quick note about basil before you get started. Young, tender leaves are the best. If you can find Genoese basil, it will give you the most authentic result, but no matter which type you buy, rest assured, it will be delicious! The jury is out on whether or not to wash the basil leaves before you use them. I, personally, don't wash them. I can't imagine washing some if their magic down the drain, but I do inspect the leaves and wipe them with a paper towel, if necessary. So, here's what you'll need.
- If you are using a food processor, add all ingredients except the olive oil. Process until blended. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Then, stream in the olive oil until it reaches a creamy consistency.
- If you are using a mortar and pestle, add a handful of basil leaves and a pinch of sea salt to the mortar. Crush the leaves, adding more as they break down. Pound the leaves with the pestle, scrape the leaves along the sides of the mortar in a circular motion– whatever you have to do to break the leaves down. This may be a little messy, but don't let it discourage you. Have fun, and don't forget to take a deep breath! This is the glorious part of making pesto, that sweet aroma!
- Add the garlic and pound until mashed.
- Then, add the pine nuts and crush them until the mixture has formed a paste.
- Note: In some parts of Liguria, they add cheese to their pesto. The typical cheese that would be used is called prescinseua (I know, it's a mouthful), but I've never had any luck finding it. I've read it's not imported because it's too perishable, so instead, I substitute a mixture of ricotta and plain greek yogurt. My grandmother used to use a small amount of cream cheese, which is also delicious.
- Add the ricotta and yogurt and mix into the pesto.
- Add the olive oil and mix. This recipe will probably seem thicker than what you are used to, but that's what will make it creamy. When you toss it with the pasta, the reserved pasta water will allow you to thin it to your desired consistency.
- Note: Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, just be sure to cover it with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent browning.
For the Pasta
- Bring salted water to a boil. Depending on the size of your pot, it will take more or less. This is a fine time to talk about the note "qb." You find this a lot in Italian recipes. It means add salt until "it's enough," which means you have to rely on your own taste buds. Pasta water is notorious for being under salted and it will honestly, ruin your dish. Give it your best guess to start with, and then taste it before you add the veggies or pasta. It should taste like ocean water. If it doesn't, add more. Trust me on this.
- While you're waiting for the pasta water, get to work on the beans and potatoes. I cook them at the same time to make the process quicker. If the beans are small, I find it works just fine. A note about the beans. If you can find Romano beans, they are my absolute favorite, but most of the time I have to settle for plain old green beans. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the green bean, the more tender they are. If you have to buy more mature beans, be sure to string them before you cook them. Snip the bean at one end and pull the string to the opposite end. Snip again and discard the string. It takes a few extra minutes, but your family will thank you for this. Those strings can really get you!When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the green beans and potatoes and boil to desired tenderness. When they are done, fish them out with a spider set them aside.
- After the green beans and potatoes are done, cook the pasta in the same pot, until al dente, so it still has a chewy bite.
- Reserve a cup of the pasta water and then strain the pasta.
- Put the green beans, potato, pasta and pesto in a bowl and toss. This is my favorite part. The hot water releases the fragrance of the basil. Add pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.
- Sprinkle a few pine nuts and fresh grated Parmiggiano Reggiano over the top and serve!