Trenette col Pesto, Trenette with Pesto Sauce

Trenette Al Pesto, With Potatoes and String Beans

Trenette Al Pesto, With Potatoes and String Beans

This is drawn from Slow Food’s collection of Ligurian restaurant and trattoria recipes; they in turn got it from Genova’s Trattoria da Maria, and before we go further I should say Trenette are similar to linguine, but a bit thinner — they look like flattened spaghetti.

Returning to the introduction, though the authors say that the practice of cooking vegetables and pasta together arose in the western part of Liguria and spread throughout the region, it also developed in other parts of Italy. Puglia’s orecchiette coi broccoletti come to mind.

To prepare this dish you will need, first of all, Pesto Sauce; while you can buy it ready made, it is not difficult to make at home and a good home-made pesto sauce is generally better than store-bought. We will therefore begin by making pesto sauce:

  • 45 leaves freshly picked basil (about a packed cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated aged pecorino (you will want Sardinian or Tuscan pecorino here, not pecorino romano, which is too sharp. If you cannot find Tuscan pecorino, increase the Parmigiano to 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2/3 cup the best olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (technically optional though almost everybody includes them)
  • 1/3 cup walnut meats (optional)
Pesto Alla Genovese in an Italian Market

Pesto Alla Genovese in an Italian Market

If you have a marble mortar and wish to use it (purists say neither brass nor wood mortars will work), put the salt, garlic, nutmeats and basil in it and grind the mixture, firmly crushing the ingredients against the sides of the mortar, rather than striking sharp blows with the pestle. When the mixture is ground, add the cheese, a bit at a time, continuing to grind, and when it is all worked in, add the oil in a slow stream, stirring with a wooden spatula. The resulting pesto should be smooth and creamy.

If you are using a food processor instead, chop the garlic, basil, nutmeats, and salt, being careful not to let the mixture liquefy, then transfer it to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese and the oil.

We now have the sauce. It will be very good simply over the pasta shape you most prefer, but I find the Ligurian custom of adding vegetables to the pot tremendously satisfying:

  • 3/4 pound dried trenette (or, if you prefer, another pasta; for example, whole wheat pasta works very well with pesto sauce)
  • 1/4 pound tender string beans
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • More grated Parmigiano for dusting

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While it’s heating, peel and dice the potatoes, and wash and cut the string beans in two. When the water comes to a boil add the vegetables and cook until almost done, about 10 minutes. Add the pasta (trenette cook in 3-5 minutes — if you’re using spaghetti instead, which take 10-12 minutes, add them to the water that much sooner), and when it is still slightly al dente transfer the mixture to a bowl. Stir in the pesto, which you will have diluted with a tablespoon or two of pasta water, dust with the grated Parmigiano, and serve. The wine? The bitter sea tang of a good Vermentino would offset the garlic perfectly.


You can also make trenette coi fagiolini, trenette with string beans, by following the instructions given above but increasing the pasta to 1 1/4 pounds and the string beans to 3/4 pound, and omitting the potato (if you decide to include it, reduce the string beans by a proportionate amount). In this case use about 1/3 cup of pesto sauce (diluted with a tablespoon or two of the pasta water), and dust the pasta with abundant freshly grated Parmigiano before serving. This would work nicely with a zesty, light red wine, for example Rossese di Dolceacqua or Valpolicella Classico.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Green Sauces for Pasta, Ligurian Recipes, Cucina Ligure

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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