Trofie with pesto is a mouth-watering traditional Genovese recipe that brings together the freshest and finest ingredients. The tender, meaty texture of the pasta blends perfectly with the rich and savoury basil sauce, resulting in a dish that’s bursting with flavour.
About Trofie with Pesto
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Trofie with pesto is one of those dishes that has become a global phenomenon, transcending the borders of Italy and delighting taste buds all over the world.
A Sad Beginning
The first time I ever had pesto was during a really tough time in my life. I was just 22 years old, and my mother had just passed away. As you can imagine, nobody was in the mood to cook. But my aunt Annamaria came to the rescue with a jar of pesto and some spaghetti: we had never tried pesto before because my dad didn’t like it. And despite the sadness we were all feeling, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the taste. It was just a simple store-bought pesto, but it was still delicious.
I then found the traditional recipe
A few years later, I managed to get my hands on the traditional Genovese recipe for pesto (which was no easy feat at the time), and decided to try making it myself instead of buying it from the shops. And let me tell you, it was the best decision I ever made. The combination of fresh basil, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil, along with the nutty flavour of cheese and pine nuts, was absolutely heavenly. Once you’ve tasted a properly made pesto, you can never go back to the store-bought stuff.
- Colli di Luni Vermentino
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- Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
- Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
Best pasta shapes for pesto sauce
Let me tell you a bit about the history of pesto!
The original recipe dates back to the second half of the 19th century, and it was mentioned in the work of a well-known gastronome of the time, Giovanni Battista Ratto, in his book, La Cuciniera Genovese. He pounded garlic, basil, Dutch cheese, Parmesan, pine nuts, and butter in a mortar. Then, he thinned out the mixture with plenty of fine olive oil to create a sauce. This sauce was perfect for seasoning pasta dishes like lasagne and gnocchi (trofie).
Pesto is believed to be an evolution of an even older sauce called aggiadda. It was a garlic-based mortar sauce from the 13th century that was used to preserve cooked food.
There’s also a lovely legend
And here’s a widespread legend for you: there’s a convent on the heights of Prà in Genoa that’s dedicated to Saint Basil. The story goes that a friar who lived in the house gathered aromatic herbs that grew on the heights and combined them with the few ingredients brought to him as an offering by the faithful. By pounding everything together, he obtained the first pesto, which was gradually perfected.
A popular dish from the very beginning
Back in the 19th century, trofie with pesto was already a popular food, but it’s likely that the original pesto recipe had much more garlic in it. This was due to the Arab-Persian influence that dominated the sauces of Genoa from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, as well as the preference and “need” of Ligurian seamen for garlic, which was considered almost like medicine for long periods on board.
Trofie with pesto is relatively high in calories and fat Even though extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat that’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, pesto is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
- Proteins 10% 10%
- Carbs 32% 32%
- Fats 58% 58%
The Ingredients for Trofie with Pesto
Let’s talk about the key ingredient that makes the perfect pesto: basil. But not just any basil will do – we’re talking about the special plant that grows in Liguria, with its sweet flavour and oval leaves that don’t leave a minty aftertaste.
If you’ve got a green thumb and want to try growing your own basil, you can even get the seeds of the “basilico genovese doc” to ensure you’re using the right variety.
But here’s a pro tip from the King of Pesto himself, Roberto Panizza: for the best pesto, you want to use young basil leaves that aren’t longer than 4 cm.
No matter which type of basil you use though, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: always choose bright green, fresh, and whole leaves. Bruised or damaged leaves won’t give you that essential oil that makes the pesto so delicious. So be picky when you’re selecting your basil, and you’ll be rewarded with the perfect pesto every time.
When it comes to pesto, you really want to choose your garlic cloves carefully.
Here’s the deal: giant cloves are a no-go. Trust me, you don’t want the garlic to overpower the rest of the flavours in the dish. Instead, go for medium-sized cloves that will give you just the right amount of flavour without being too pungent.
And before you start pounding those cloves, here’s a pro tip: make sure to halve them and remove the germ from the center (the small green shoot that grows in the center of a garlic clove). This little step will make a big difference in the flavour of your pesto. By removing the germ, you’ll get a sweeter and more delicate taste, instead of that harsh, overpowering flavour that can come from leaving it in.
Now, you might think that any old olive oil will do, but when it comes to Italian recipes, the quality of the oil is absolutely essential.
First of all, let’s talk about flavour. Trust me, using a high-quality, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil will make a world of difference in your pesto. But it’s not just about taste – it’s also about the nutritional value. Real extra-virgin olive oil has tons of health benefits, and since pesto requires a fair amount of oil, you definitely want to make sure you’re using the best quality you can find.
If you’re not sure how to choose a good olive oil, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Check out my article for all the tips and tricks you need to know to select the perfect oil for your pesto (and any other Italian recipe, for that matter!).
Personally, I like to give my pine nuts a quick roast in a non-stick pan to really bring out their flavour. If you don’t find pine nuts, you can also use walnuts or almonds. Just make sure to remove the skin first, because it can give your pesto a bitter aftertaste. A quick trick for removing the skin is to blanch the walnuts and almond in boiling water for a minute. Once the skin is off, you can also give them a quick roast to bring out their nutty taste.
Now, if you happen to be allergic to nuts, don’t worry – you can still enjoy delicious pesto. A great substitute for pine nuts or walnuts is pumpkin seeds. They’re not only nut-free, but they also add a unique flavour and texture to the dish.
Ideally, you want to go for the Parmigiano Reggiano stravecchio DOC – this is the good stuff that’s been aged for at least 36 months. Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen this cheese outside of Italy yet. But don’t worry – a parmesan that’s been aged for 30 months will also work just fine.
So why is the quality of the cheese so important? It all comes down to flavour. The younger parmesan cheese has a nutty taste with a hint of acidity, while the stravecchio is more mellow and full-bodied without any weird aftertaste.
When I talk about pecorino, I’m not talking about any old pecorinos – we’re talking about the special variety that’s traditionally used in pesto: pecorino sardo.
Now, if you haven’t tried pecorino sardo yet, you’re in for a treat. This cheese is richer and less salty than pecorino romano, and it’s made from the milk of the local sarda breed of sheep in Sardinia. Young pecorino sardo is aged for just 40 days, which gives it a sweet flavour that pairs perfectly with the other ingredients in pesto.
But let’s be real – sometimes it can be tough to find the exact ingredients you need for a recipe. If you can’t get your hands on pecorino sardo, don’t worry. You can use manchego cheese instead – it’s not quite the same, but it will still give you that nutty flavour that’s so important in pesto.
And hey, if you’re feeling rebellious, you could even ignore my advice and use pecorino romano instead. It’s a bit saltier than pecorino sardo, but it’ll still taste delicious.
Trofie with pesto alla genovese
- Total Time: 1 hour & 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 portions 1x
Traditional genovese recipe of trofie with pesto
For the trofie:
- 300 grams of fine semolina
- 150 grams of water
For the pesto:
- 70 grams of basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp of pine nuts
- 10 tbsp of 30 months aged Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, grated
- 15 grams of good quality Pecorino, in chunks
- 120/150 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil
- A few grains of coarse sea salt
- 1 medium sized floury potato (about 300 grams)
- 200 grams green beans
Make the trofie
In a large bowl, place the semolina and create a well in the center. Add 120 gr (half a cup) of water and beat with a fork, gradually incorporating the semolina until it becomes too hard to work with the fork. If there is any remaining flour that hasn’t been absorbed, add a little more water until it has all been absorbed by the dough.
Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead it vigorously for at least 20 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. Be careful not to make the dough too elastic, as it will become gooey once cooked. You want a firm and slightly elastic dough that is easy to work with. If the dough is too soft and sticky, add more semolina. The proportion is generally 50 gr of wet ingredient (water or egg) for every 100 gr of dry ingredient (semolina or flour). Note that each flour has its own absorbing power, so be careful and add the water carefully.
Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, ideally for 1 hour, in a cool and dry place (never in the fridge).
Divide the dough into several small workable sections. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll each section into ropes of about 2-3 mm in diameter. Cut the ropes into segments of about 3 cm each.
To shape the trofie, lightly flatten each segment and hold it by its extremities. Twist it until it is completely rolled upon itself. Continue until all the dough is shaped. Leave your trofie on a clean cotton tablecloth or lightly floured wooden surface.
Make the pesto
Remove the basil leaves from the sprigs, then gently clean them with a cloth. Do not wash them or rub them, as any black veins in the leaves can compromise the taste and color of the pesto.
Take a marble mortar and insert the garlic cloves. Work the garlic with a pestle until you get a creamy texture. Add the pine nuts and proceed in the same way.
Once the pine nuts are reduced to a paste, add the basil leaves and coarse salt. Begin with percussion movements and then continue with rotational movements. Use a spoon to collect the ingredients from the inner edges of the mortar to obtain a uniform pesto.
Once the consistency is creamy and homogeneous, add the Pecorino cheese chunks and pound in the same way to incorporate them. Then add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and do the same thing.
When all the ingredients are reduced to a creamy texture, pour in the olive oil and swirl the pestle for a few more seconds.
Make trofie with pesto, potatoes, and green beans
In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Trim the green beans and leave them whole.
Once the water has come to a boil, add the green beans and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the fresh trofie to the pot and wait for them to rise to the surface. This should take about 20 seconds. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, taking care to save a tablespoon of the cooking water.
Transfer the cooked trofie, green beans, and potatoes to a large bowl. Add the pesto, the tablespoon of water, and mix well to combine.
To make pesto using a mixer, add the basil leaves, oil, pine nuts, salt, and garlic to a large mixer. Blend the ingredients together, then stir in the grated cheese. To ensure the perfect taste, it’s important to prevent the mixture from getting too hot due to the movement of the blades. To avoid this, pulse briefly several times, stopping after a few seconds before restarting. For an added precaution, cool the mixer blades in the refrigerator before use.
Pesto that is not eaten immediately can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered with olive oil in a tightly closed jar.
To freeze your pesto, divide it into portions using mini jars suitable for the freezer. Be sure to label each jar with the date and contents for easy identification. When ready to use, allow the pesto to thaw completely at room temperature. Remember, once the pesto has been defrosted, it should not be refrozen. Keep this in mind when preparing your portions
While frozen pesto can last up to 3 months, the quality and taste may deteriorate over time. It’s best to use it within the first month for optimal flavour.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Rest Time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: fresh pasta, basil, parmesan cheese, pecorino, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, potatoes, green beans