Pesto alla Genovese

We've had several 70+ degree weather days in Boston the last few weeks and it's made me crave summer food! Pesto is probably the easiest and most fragrant pasta 'sauce' you could make and it takes all of 5 minutes. Originally from Genova, an ancient port city in Liguria, pesto is made with only 6 ingredients. I love also adding cubed potatoes and green beans to the pasta which is how they often do it in Italy. The idea of serving two starches together might seem unusual, but it actually gives it an incredible consistency.

The way you should really make pesto is by using a mortar and pestle to crush and grind the pesto by hand. I like to use a food processor because 'aint nobody got time for that'. Just be sure not to over-process it which will 'bruise' the basil and give it a darker color.

Be sure to use high quality ingredients - good Parmigiano Reggiano and extra virgin olive oil. This is not the type of dish to take ingredient shortcuts on, since there are so few ingredients and you really can taste each one.

Traditionally, in Genova, they would serve this dish with Trofie pasta; a short, thin, twisted pasta, instead of spaghetti. Needless to say, I have not been able to find this type of pasta in Boston (I really haven't looked that hard).

Serves 2


2 cups of fresh basil

2 tbs pine nuts

1 clove of garlic

1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

1/4 cup Pecorino

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste


one potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

handful of green beans, chopped into 1/2 inch strips

1/4 box of spaghetti


  • To make the pesto, begin by washing the basil, and allow it to fully dry. Combine basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese in a food processor and turn on, while blending, add the olive oil slowly in a steady stream. Once blended, remove and set aside.

  • In a large, salted pot, bring water to a boil. Place the potatoes and green beans in the pot and cook until al dente. Remove and set aside in a bowl

  • In the same pot of water, return to a boil and add the spaghetti. Once al dente, drain the pasta reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water. Add the spaghetti and the starchy water to the bowl with 1/2 a cup of pesto and combine with the veggies.

  • serve with fresh black pepper and any additional Parmesan.

Having pasta cravings? Welcome to my life. Check out my other vegetarian pasta sauce, Mushroom Ragu:

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