Trofie al Pesto
For many years I had scoffed at the idea of cooking spaghetti with pesto and then one day friends invited us over to dinner and the main course was spaghetti with pesto. To my pleasant surprise it was good, very good in fact and since then it was a regular in our house and even my eldest boy enjoyed it which was a revelation.
It was at that point I did a bit of research, which I usually do, as I love finding out about where, when and why recipes come from. I found a great channel on YouTube and one episode was travelling around the region of Liguria in NW Italy, known for the the large port of Genoa, great olive oil and pesto. Pesto by the way derives from the Italian verb pestare, which means to grind or crush, so it makes sense. The origin of pesto can be argued about though as many countries have their version, but anyway, this region is famous for it’s mild olive oil, basil grows naturally and of course the pine forests supply pine nuts. I also discovered that they do not use spaghetti with their pesto, but rather a smaller pasta that is twisted and spiral, ideal for holding a sauce such as pesto called trofie.
So that is basically it, basil, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic and grated parmesan cheese crushed into a paste. Boiled pasta drained, but a splash of the pasta water is used to help the pesto turn into a sauce and then mixed togther. Wonderful with a lovely chilled glass of Cinque Terre Vermentino.
What I and many others do when making this recipe is to add baby spinach and or even rocket to the pesto which makes it go further and takes the sharp edge off the basil which I feel can be a bit over powering, I also roast some of the pine nuts. The key however, is to try it out and find what your own preference is.
There is another dish from the region called Trofie al Pesto con Patate e Fagiolini which adds potatoes and green beans into pesto and pasta.
400 gr Trofie pasta
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cups baby spinach
2 cloves garlic
50 gr pine nuts (I roast half of these in a pan to sprinkle over the top before serving)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil,
Season with salt and black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add in the Trofie pasta and salt and cook to al dente, about 4-5 minutesra bit longer if neccesarry.
Meanwhile, put the basil, baby spinach, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, then add in the olive oil and blend until you have a relatively smooth paste. Taste and then season with salt and blackpepper.You can of course do this the traditional way with a pestle and mortar, but it really doesn’t change the taste it just takes longer.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta saving some of the water and place it in a large bowl. Pour the pesto over the cooked pasta and stir to fully combine.
Serve hot or cold as a salad.