CLASSIC pasta trenette with pesto, green beans, potato








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We think of this dish as the national dish of Portofino, imagining ourselves sitting in the sun at an outdoor trattoria overlooking the Portofino harbor.

The basic sauce is pesto, combined with potatoes and fresh green beans. The pasta is generally trenette, which is the Ligurian fettucine, or thereabouts. Linguini also works fine; some presentations use fusilli.

Our favorite pasta with this recipe, however, is strozzapreti, if one can find it. This is a pasta similar to trofie, although larger. It is made from durum wheat semolina, and consists of two strands of pasta twisted around each other. It is about two inches long. We like the way the pasta coats with the pesto, and we also like the symmetry of the ingredients in the overall dish when we cut the fresh green beans in half, making them approximately the same size as the pasta.

The dish can also be made modular: some recipes use the pasta, pesto and only the potato; others use the pasta, pesto, and the green beans alone. It is easy to adapt.

Whatever the pasta you use, or whatever the module, we are sure you will find this dish to be one of the most delicious you will find, even if you are not overlooking the harbor of Portofino at the time.

Some recipes call for cooking the potatoes and/or the green beans, with the pasta. We like to be very careful that every ingredient is solid to the taste, not mushy. So we do each separately, combining at the end. A little attention to the combining will not only work well, but will also insure that all the ingredients are hot on serving.

for the sauce:

  • six ounces of potatoes, peeled and diced into approximate 1/2-inch squares
  • four ounces of fresh green beans, trimmed at the tips, and then cut in half
  • pesto (see below)

for the pasta:

  • one pound fresh egg pasta, trenette or fettucine; or fusilli; or strozzapreti.

Boil the potatoes until they are almost al dente. Drain and set aside, preferably in a warm over. Parboil the green beans in slightly salted water, until they are also almost perfect to the taste. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, get 4-5 quarts of cold water up to a roiling boil; add a tablespoon of salt; and then the pasta. Cook the pasta until almost al dente. Drain, but save a couple of tablespoons of the water.

Put the drained pasta into a sauté pan large enough to hold the completed dish; add the potatoes, the green beans; and then mix in the pesto, adding the reserved hot water to facilitate the melding. When thoroughly mixed, cover, and turn the heat to medium for two minutes, to get all the dish to al dente and to have it hot for serving immediately.

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for the pesto sauce:

  • two cups fresh basil leaves
  • one-half cup olive oil
  • three cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly diced
  • two tablespoons pine nuts
  • salt (a teaspoon or to taste)
  • one-half cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • two tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino, either Romano or Toscano
  • two tablespoons softened butter

Using a blender (pesto was traditionally made in a mortar with pestle, but a blender works excellently), put in the basil and garlic and mix for a few seconds. Then add the pine nuts and olive oil and salt, and blend at a high speed until the sauce approaches being creamy (not too much, however, as a little roughness in the texture is wonderful).

When the blending is completed, transfer the sauce into a mixing bowl and stir in the two grated cheeses, and then the butter, making sure there is a uniform and perfect blending.




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