PESTO GENOVESE CON TRIOFE, FAGGIOLINI E PATATE (Pesto with pasta, green beans and potatoes)

I visited friends recently who have a small, but very prolific vegetable garden – they have chooks, and that means fertilizer. I came home with huge bunches of basil and I made pesto. At this time of year it very handy to have pesto as standby in the fridge – in fact I have fed two lots of visitors pesto this week, this version with beans last night.

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Those of you who grow basil in your gardens probably do not want to hear about pesto ever again, but maybe you do not know about the classic recipe of pesto and triofe (Ligurian classic shape of pasta for this dish), green beans and potatoes (last night I omitted the potatoes – see photo). I was reminded of this dish when I saw the film  Summer in Genova recently. In the film, Colin Firth cooked this dish for his two daughters, a16-year-old and ten-year-old (all the children I know seem to like pesto). Their mother dies in a car accident and the family moves to Genova in Liguria – a new city, new start and a new recipe (one their mother had not cooked). There is probably only one positive thing that I can say about this film, and that is that it reminded me to cook this classic recipe.

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It is very simple to compose this dish – the potatoes and beans are cooked in the same water as the pasta, drained and dressed with the pesto.

Some of you may be aware that pesto alla Genovese can only be made exclusively from ingredients grown in that small area in northwest Italy called Liguria. This is the area where pesto originated and the Ligurians want to give it a D.O.P. status (Protected Designation of Origin) and it cannot be called pesto unless it comes from that part of the world.

However I do make pesto as many of us do with plenty of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, basil leaves and the mixture of parmigiano and pecorino.  (See post called SICILIAN PESTO – Mataroccu for an alternative recipe). If I am storing the pesto in the fridge, I always top it with olive oil to stop the oxidation.

See post called SICILIAN PESTO – Mataroccu for an alternative recipe.

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For 500g pasta I use about 300g of green beans cut diagonally to the length of the pasta (triofe are like penne in length) and 200g potatoes cut into small cubes (if I am using them). Ligurians tend to cook the vegetables and the pasta at the same time, but I like to stagger their cooking time, mainly to preserve some crunch to the beans.

The potatoes may take the longest time to cook, so begin by placing the potatoes into a large saucepan  of cold, salted water.
Bring to the boil and cook the potatoes for about 10 mins before adding the pasta.
Add the beans  about 7 mins before the pasta and potatoes are cooked.
Drain, coat the pasta and vegetables with pesto and add the cheese last of all.

Easy, very fragrant, different, and much appreciated, especially by those who have never made fresh pesto.

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