CLASSIC pasta trofie, or trenette, with pesto








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We had the good fortune of discovering a small gourmet food and wine shop in the Portrero Hill section of San Francisco where we were able to buy authentic trofie pasta from Italy. There are certainly other shops in the U.S. where trofie can be found, but we had been carrying ours back in our suitcases, buying it at Carlucci's in Covent Garden in London. So this was an important find for us pesto lovers! The trofie we purchased in San Francisco is Saporia di Liguri, from La Bella Angiolina, made in a facility near to the original location of the oldest pastifico in Italy (so they claim) in Savona, in the heart of the Ligurian Riviera.

Trofie, or trofiette, are thin strings of pasta, about one to two inches long, twisted into a corkscrew shape. They are generally made with hard durum flour, but they can also be made from all-purpose flour. Trofie, or trofiette, are frequently called Ligurian gnocchi.

They are a perfect pasta with pesto, as is trenette (shown above). Spaghetti also works. There is a companion recipe one should also try:  trenette with pesto and string beans, which we think of as the standard dish of Portofino.

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 Toscana
  • two tablespoons butter

for the pasta:

  • one pound of trofie (durum wheat preferred) or trenette, or linguini, or spaghetti.

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.

Heat 4-5 quarts of water to a raging boil, add two tablespoons or so of salt, drop in the pasta and stir regularly, until it is al dente.

Drain the pasta (reserve a tablespoon of the hot water), and toss it with the pesto sauce. Add the butter and the tablespoon of hot water to assist in the tossing and mixing. Serve immediately!


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