Pasta al Pesto Genoese

March 7, 2011 / Food & Wine
Genova, Liguria

(cont’d from here)

Pasta al pesto with potatoes and green beans may sound like an unusual combination, but it’s a traditional way of serving pesto in Liguria.
In Genoa, pesto’s birthplace, the Genoesi boil green beans, potatoes, and Ligurian pasta (all in the same pot) and then serve it all mixed with the pesto sauce.

The recipe is truly simple…

Wash the green beans, remove the ends, and chop them into 2 pieces. Wash the potatoes and cut them into little pieces.
Place water in a large pot, add salt and bring to boil. Then, add the potatoes and the green beans to the pot and cook them for about 5 minutes. Finally, add the trenette pasta (also called bavette or linguine) to the same pot and cook until al dente. Drain the trenette, potatoes and green beans and place in a large bowl.
Add Genoese pesto sauce and mix everything to combine. You can add a bit of the cooking water to help the mixing process.

Serve immediately, topped with grated parmigiano cheese and Buon Appetito!


Anna Merulla

by Anna Merulla

Founder of Beautiful Liguria, a travel concierge service that offers everything from tour planning, hiking excursions, cooking lessons, personal shopping and much more in this great region. In 2009 she decided to begin sharing her personal knowledge of the beauty, the culture, and the history of Liguria in which she’s immersed every day.

27 Responses to “Pasta al Pesto Genoese”

  1. Anna, I grew up eating this dish as my Dad was born in the States but spent his childhood in La Spezia…..his mom was from Genoa. It is very delicious!
    Welcome to our newsletter!

  2. Ciao Susan,
    thanks for your welcome. It’s so a pleasure to know you. You are right, it is very delicious and made just with simple ingredients. I love it to!

  3. Muriel Christensen

    Can you publish the Genovese Pesto Sauce that goes with this recipe?

  4. Linda Boccia

    Unlike many American dishes with multiple herbs and spices sometimes oddly mixed, most truly Italian cooking is done with simple herbs. So this dish is the quintessential type of Italian cooking and very delicious.

  5. Mickie

    Yum. I love pesto, pasta, potatoes and green beans, but never had them combined together (Mom was from Abruzzo). Going to try it this weekend.

  6. @Muriel Genoese Pesto sauce will be posted soon in another note.
    @Linda thanks, I agree with you. Most of the time it’s necessary simple ingredients to make a tasteful and genuine dish.
    @Mickie Let us know how it turns out :-)

  7. Angela

    HHMMMMM…..I love this. Brings back memories of my grandmother!

  8. minnie


  9. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    There is a very special dish peculiar to Campania, ‘la Genovese’, has little at all to do with Genoa, yet it dates back to the 14th century and has change only slightly in form. Have a great recipe for that one!

  10. Tina Giamotti

    I’m actually making this tonight. I went to Genova and various locales in Liguria last year and I couldn’t leave without having Trenette al Pesto…also ‘Cima’. Liguria is now one of my favorite regions in Italia and Genova is a beautiful city. I heard so many negatives about that city but found it quite the opposite….ciao ciao

  11. MP Barton

    something is missing from this note – there is no guidance to amounts of ingredients. Also, I don’t know if there should have been one, but a link to making the genoese pesto would probably be helpful.

  12. Carol Burke

    Like Muriel Christensen, I also hope the recipe for the Genoese pesto sauce will appear soon

  13. @MP Barton about ingredients. In this case for 4 people I used about three small potatoes and about 300 gr of green beans. Usually I cook about 400 gr of pasta trenette for 4 people.
    Pesto sauce note will come soon.
    Grazie a tutti!

  14. MP Barton

    Anna – La ringrazio. Faccio questo piatto spesso, ma mi piace provare
    ricette diverse. Non vedo l’ora di provare la sua ricette per il pesto!

  15. Frank "ciccio" Vitale

    Do ingredients have to be exact? or is close OK.

    Thank You


  16. I’m afraid to admit this especially to Italiannotebook readers and contributors, but I usually go out of my way to avoid cooking..but this one I am defintely going to have a go at this weekend! many thanks and welcome aboard. Pat Ceccarelli

  17. Muriel Christensen

    PASTA AL PESTO GENOESE: Why, does the title contain the words “al Pesto Genoese” and we never even saw the pesto recipe? Maybe you want us to continue waiting? You like that?
    I never heard of something like that–some of us want the pesto recipe so as to make the whole thing–tutti !! (1 + 1 = 2) How long is this going to last, all this waiting, and no pesto recipe???
    Maybe the recipe without the pesto should have a new name: “Green Beans Jablotte” or something SIMILAR. Should we start a new name contest???
    Mama mia! Just send the pesto Genoese recipe and we won’t have to keep asking for it. Very simple request…! Do not wait too long…less we forget…

  18. Muriel Christensen

    In the previous article about the two pastas, I found this: “In Liguria, trofie with basil or walnut pesto are traditionally served with cooked green beans and potatoes tossed in. Potatoes, green beans and pasta might sound like a strange combination, but we guarantee that you will love it once you try it!”
    Are we getting closer to the ‘pesto Genoese’ recipe?

  19. @Muriel: I’m sorry, I do not want you to wait for the pesto recipe and it’s not my purpose let readers of ItalianNotebook wait for it. This is only my second note here and doing my best to satisfy the readers.
    @Frank “ciccio” Vitale: close is ok. Thanks to you and have a nice day.
    @Pat Ceccarelli: thanks to you. Let us know how the recipe turns out for you!

  20. Tina Giamotti

    There are many websites as to how to make pesto….I just bought mine already premade..and you can use
    as many or as few potatoes/green beans as you see fit. I thought most Italian Italians just ‘cook’ and don’t concern themselves with precise amounts…. ‘playing with cooking’…isn’t this the fun of it?

  21. cristina rocca

    I made this for dinner last night a real winner Thank you Ciao Cristina

  22. John M

    Cristina: Sometimes playing with recipes is fun, but when you are aiming for consistency and especially the first time you make something, you want to have at least some guideline. After you makesomething one time, you can say, “Oh next time, I’ll change this or that”. In this recipe I could use 3 lbs of potatoes and a tablespoon of pesto, or use half a cup of pesto and 1 potato. The results would be completely different don’t you think? When you are having company and something you made is absolutely inedible because you didn’t have a recipe (and not to mention food prices aren’t going down any time soon) it’s not much “fun”.


    btw Here’s the original Ligurian Pesto recipe from Italian Notebook that was attached to this article:

    Ligurian Pesto

    (Italian Notebook)

    4 bunches of basil (about 60–100 grams, 2–3 ounces)
    20 g pecorino Romano
    40 g Parmigiano Reggiano
    handful of pine nuts (pinoli) (you can use also walnuts)
    2 cloves garlic
    kosher salt
    extra-virgin olive oil

    Wash and dry with paper the small basil leaves (be careful not to mash them when you dry them). While the leaves are drying, chop 2 cloves of garlic with a bit of salt. After chopping garlic and salt, add the basil leaves, pine nuts, the ground parmigiano and pecorino cheeses and mix it all with mortar and pestle (purists eschew using a blender as it will “bruise” the leaves) gradually adding the olive oil. The pesto sauce should not be too “liquidy”.
    The preparation must be done as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation problems.

    • The finest hotel in Liguria passed their secret recipe to me 30 years ago. It was very similar but the trick for a creamy green pesto sauce is to blend with real butter. We don’t like it oily. They served it in a small crock pot with potato and green bean too.

  23. John M

    I meant to address Tina, not Cristina. Sorry. I Got the order of the posts mixed up.

  24. John M

    From the NY Times: Close enough:

    Trenette, Fagiolini E Patate Al Pesto (Long, Thin Pasta, Green Beans And Potatoes With Pesto)

    2cups packed tender young basil leaves
    1/4 cup pine nuts (pinoli)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with flat blade of a knife
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, or more to taste
    kosher salt to taste
    1/2 pound small potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
    1/4 pound tender young green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
    1 pound trenette, or other long, thin pasta

    Make pesto: in bowl of food processor, add basil, pine nuts, salt and garlic. Pulse until mixture is coarse and grainy. With motor running, add oil in slow, steady stream. Add cheese; process just enough to mix well. If sauce is too dry, add a little more oil. Taste; add more cheese or salt, if desired.

    Bring 6 quarts water to rolling boil. Add at least 2 tablespoons salt and the potato slices. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until potatoes have started to soften but are not cooked through. Add green beans, and continue boiling another 5 minutes.

    Add pasta, and stir. Start testing pasta at 5 minutes. When it is done, and when potatoes and beans are tender, drain and turn pasta and vegetables immediately into preheated bowl. Add pesto, and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

    Serves 8.

  25. Dino Alfredo

    Once you use Walnuts you’ve destroyed the flavor of the dish. Pignoli, fresh basil and fresh garlic is essential. When ready to serve add a ladle of the starchy water you cooked the pasta in to amalgamate the sauce. The person who writes the recipe makes it sound like this is an optional step, but it is really necessary to get the pasta coated properly with pesto.


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