Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Pasta alla Genovese

First time I tried this pasta dish, we were staying at my in-laws' house in Italy. My mother-in-law cooked it, and I have been doing it myself ever since. My initial thoughts were of pure curiosity, as I couldn't imagine pasta and potatoes in the same dish, it feels like an overload of carbs, but it works beautifully.
You will need
dried trofie or your choice of dried pasta, such as spaghetti, about 100g per person (for the dish above I used Waitrose organic spaghetti.

1 medium potato, peeled and cut roughly into 1cm/½in chunks

100g green beans, cut into 4cm lengths

For the pesto sauce
75g fresh basil leaves

60g pine nuts

60g parmesan or pecorino (or a mixture of the two)

2 garlic cloves

100-125ml olive oil

Here's how you cook it (recipe adapted from Sophie Grigson, she also likes to add carrots to her dish, while I don't):

1.To make the pesto, put the basil leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Add the pine nuts.

2.Chop the parmesan into small chunks and add to the food processor.

3.Roughly chop the garlic and add to the food processor.

4.Turn the processor on and process until the basil and cheese are chopped finely.

5.Turn the food processor on again and, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream through the funnel in the lid.

6.Check the consistency - it should be thick and just drop off the spatula.

7.Transfer the pesto into a bowl and cover with cling film until needed. (You can keep it in an airtight jar, covered with a thin layer of olive oil, for a few days in the fridge; or freeze it.)

8.To cook the pasta, bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil then add the pasta.

9.Trofie pasta takes about 15 minutes to cook so, after 8-9 minutes, add the potatoes and bring back to the boil (if your pasta takes less time to cook you'll need to add the potatoes sooner).

10.Allow to boil for a further two more minutes then add the beans and cook for another three minutes.

11.By the time the trofie is perfectly cooked but still firm (al dente), the vegetables will be nicely cooked. Drain thoroughly and toss the pasta together with the pesto.

12.Serve with extra parmesan or pecorino and a sprig of fresh basil, if you like.

If you are a busy Mum and do not have time to prepare fresh pesto, do not think twice - Waitrose and Sainsbury's make their own versions of pesto, you can find them next to fresh pasta (plastic tub variety, not the glass jars with the other sauces). In fact, I would be a liar if I said I always make my own pesto, pasta etc Sometimes making everything from scratch is not a priority.
Enjoy your pasta!


  1. This is one of my favourite dishes. A tip for the pesto - make a huge batch when you have a glut of basil and freeze it in ice cube trays. Tip the frozen cubes into a poly bag and they will keep for months in the freezer. One cube is almost exactly a tablespoonful, and there is no need to defrost it, it melts in seconds when you put it into any hot dish.

  2. Thank you for the tip, Jane. I never thought of that, but I remember an Italian friend used to do it. Whenever his Mum visited him in Oxford, she brought several jars of homemade pesto (and of course, nobody can make pesto like Mamma) and he put them in the freezer for later use.