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Trenette with Potatoes, Green Beans and Pesto (Trenette al Pesto)

Ligurians make uncooked pasta sauces from various herbs, nuts or anchovies. Traditionally made by hand in a mortar, this type of sauce is called pesto, from pestare, which means "to pound." The best known of this family of sauces is composed of basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese. It's usually served over trenette or linguine tossed with thin green beans and sliced potatoes, perfect foils for the rich sauce.

Ingredients:

For the pesto:

  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of coarse salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 lb. new potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 lb. thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1 lb. trenette or linguine

Directions:

To make the pesto, in a food processor or blender, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic and a pinch of salt. Process until the mixture is very finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth. Turn off, add the cheese and butter and pulse a few times just until the ingredients are blended. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Salt generously, add the potatoes and green beans and cook until the vegetables are just tender, about 8 minutes. Using a skimmer, transfer the vegetables to a warmed serving bowl and keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente (tender but firm to the bite). Drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water.

Add the pasta and the pesto to the vegetables. Toss well, adding the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).