Pasta Genovese (with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans)
It’s already March! That means it’s theoretically almost spring!
This past weekend it got up to a summery 76 degrees in Santa Barbara, and I decided I’d post a spring-like pasta dish for this week’s recipe. Then, as the week went on, the temperature proceeded to drop 30 degrees and a dense dark fog settled over the mountains, threatening rain.
Today’s chilly, rainy weather is decidedly less spring-like– and more southern California-“winter”-like– but out of stubbornness (and not having any other recipes ready), I am sticking to my original pasta plan.
Perhaps through sheer force of will– and a suspension of squash-eating– we can lure spring into being a little early this year.
This might be the perfect pasta dish for the borderline of winter giving way to spring. It’s green and fresh tasting– especially if you juice up your basil pesto with fresh lemon the way I do– but it’s also hearty and filling. I mean, pasta with potatoes? Talk about redundant. On the other hand, winter’s dwindling days might be the perfect time to tuck into one last big bowl of hearty pasta before salad season really arrives.
I adapted this recipe from Linda McCartney’s World of Vegetarian Cooking. The dish takes its name from pesto alla genovese, i.e., pesto made with basil (because there are many other kinds!).
Curiously, it seems that many English-speaking food bloggers have posted similar recipes under the title “Pasta alla Genovese” (I suppose in some sort of logical amalgam of pasta + pesto alla genovese), whereas nearly every Italian language post with that same title features a different recipe entirely: one for pasta with a tomato-y meat sauce!
But back to the recipe at hand: the traditional way of serving pesto alla genovese is over pasta, tossed with lightly boiled green beans and potatoes. The bright crunch of the al dente green beans (along with a smattering of pine nuts) complements the other textures, though any other seasonal green would work nicely here as well.
You might not be able to sense the approach of spring just yet, especially if you’ve been, say, buried by a blizzard in the past week or two… but at least you can make yourself some pasta genovese to remind you that before long the shift of the seasons will bring warmer weather, late evening sunlight, and a bounty of farmer’s market basil.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
(with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans)
(Roughly adapted from Linda McCartney’s World of Vegetarian Cooking.)
~ 1 lb. potatoes (new/red or Dutch yellow potatoes), unpeeled, and roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
~ ¾-1 lb. green beans, trimmed and chopped into bite-size lengths
~ 1 lb. pasta; best with short pastas like gemelli or fusilli (pictured)
~ ¾-1 cup of lemony Pesto alla Genovese (one recipe’s worth of this Basic Basil Pesto)
~ freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
~ ½ cup pine nuts
~ cherry tomatoes
~ crumbled feta cheese
~ wilted spinach or kale
How to make it:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, optionally with a pinch of salt. Boil the chopped potatoes for 10-12 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Scoop the cooked potatoes out with a strainer in order to use the same boiling water to cook the green beans; strain the potatoes and set aside. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the chopped green beans for 3-4 minutes before draining them. Run some cold water over the cooked green beans to stop them from cooking and to keep their al dente crunch.
2. While the potatoes and green beans are boiling, make the pesto. (Use a food processor to blend 1-2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp. pine nuts, and a pinch of salt until finely chopped. Add 3 cups basil– loosely packed with stems removed– and several Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and blend. Then gradually blend in ⅓ cup olive oil, and finally ¼ cup grated Parmesan.) Set aside.
3. Bring a new large pot of lightly salted water to a boil (or use the same water from step #1, but I like to start fresh for this step). Boil the pasta, according to package instructions, until just al dente. Strain, reserving up to ⅓ cup of the pasta cooking water (simply place a heat-proof glass measuring cup or similar container in the sink below/beside the colander you use to strain your pasta).
4. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl or serving dish. Add half the pesto and up to ⅓ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. This liquid will help the pesto better coat the pasta, and the pasta will absorb the extra liquid (especially if only cooked to an al dente texture). Then add the potatoes, green beans, and the rest of the pesto, and stir until all ingredients are well coated.
5. Optionally stir in pine nuts, and serve warm (or at room temperature) with fresh Parmesan grated over the top. The leftovers are great served with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese, and I imagine adding wilted spinach or kale to this dish would also work nicely.
Print this recipe! (PDF)