I have been wanting to make this Ligurian Pesto sauce with green beans and potatoes for a while. So when I saw fresh green beans at the Rocklea market a couple of days ago I knew what they were destine for. I have never seen this dish prepared before so I was curious to see what it was like.
I adapted this recipe from Diane Seeds, The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces (currently my favorite book). I had to use a lot less pine nuts and no cheese, I also included a little bit of nutritional yeast for a bit of a bite. I usually don’t use a lot of olive oil, but this recipe uses plenty and it really makes this dish delicious. The hot water and oily pesto makes this dish really creamy and the potatoes and green beans make it all the more heartier.
I also attempted to make Focaccia alla genovese. However I didn’t let mine rise the second time, so the indents that the olive oil was meant to sit in were not as deep. I will have to attempt this again, when I have more left over pizza dough. It was still really good and really made me miss fresh foccacia that I use to have for lunch most days when I was in Milan. I got the recipe for Foccaccia alla genovese from Giallo Zafferano.
For other who love food history I thought I would give some info on this incredibly delicious traditional Italian dish from the Ligurian region. Liguria is the coastal region in north western Italy and it is the capital city of Genova. Their most famous sauce or condiment is Pesto Genovese. It is typically made from primarily of basil with raw pine nuts, garlic, parmesan/pecorino cheese, extra virgin olive oil and course salt. Traditionally it is made with a mortar and pestle, but today most people just use a processor.
This sauce is usually used to flavor pastas dishes (trofiette, bavette, linguine, trenette, corzetti, tagliatelle, tagliolini and lasagne), troffie, or Minestrone alla genovese (soup). It is also used as a condiment to flavor some other regional ‘fast foods’, such as testaieu , testaroli and panigacci.
It is thought that Pesto Genovese originated from the ancient Romans. They use to make a Moretum, a green paste, made of fresh cheese, herbs, salt, oil and vinegar. They would crush the ingredients in a mortar and eat the spread on bread. The recipe was described in both the Appendix Vergiliana by the poet Virgil and the De Re Rustica, book XII by Columella, an important writer on agriculture of the Roman empire, which also contained a variant with pine nuts.
Later during the Middle Ages, the Agliata ligure, a traditional garlic sauce, made of garlic and walnuts, was typically eaten in Genova and throughout Liguria. It was especially eaten by the Seamen, who ate this sauce in large quantities to prevent diseases and infections, as their voyages where long and their conditions unhygienic. If you remember my early post, Pesto alla trapanese used two ways, this sauce also had great influence on the people of Trapani in Sicily, who developed their own version. Mentions of this garlic sauce can be found it documents from the 17th century in Genova. However the Pesto we know today was not developed until later.
Prior to the 19th century Pesto recipes began to emerge, but they did not include pine nuts. The first book to publish Pesto with pine nuts was La Cuciniera Genovese in 1863, by Giovanni Battista Ratto. It was also the first comprehensive recipe book on Ligurian cuisine. The recipe calls for a clove of garlic, basil or if not in season marjoram and parsley; Gouda cheese and grated Parmesan. The ingredients should be then mixed together and pounded in a mortar with a little bit of butter, until its reduced to a paste. It should be then melted/dissolved with a lots of oil. This sauce is then used to dress pasta or gnocchi (troffie), with a little bit of hot water without salt, so that it is more liquefied sauce. Troffie is a type of Ligurian dumpling, which is elongated and twisted and is typically of the town Recco in the Genova province.
In the 19th century Pasta al pesto became increasingly popular. Another tradition that has continue was the addition of adding potatoes, broad beans or green beans, and sometimes zucchini, to cook with the pasta, before being dressed in the pesto sauce. It became particularly typically in Genova, to add potatoes and green beans cook with trenette linguine. This is how this particular dish I made came about. Of course you will find variants for the pesto and the use of vegetables in Pasta al pesto, in individual households. However, this dish has lived on to become one of the popular dishes in Italian cuisine.
Linguine al pesto genovese (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)
4 serves linguine/spaghetti
bunch of basil (36 leaves)
3 garlic cloves
65 g pine nuts (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
200ml extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & black pepper to taste
3 small potatoes, peeled
180g green beans, roughly chopped
1. First make the Pesto. Wash and light dry the basil leaves, then place then in the processor with garlic cloves. While the processor is running add the pine nuts, nutritional yeast and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Cook the pasta according to packet directions. While the pasta is cooking add potatoes and beans. I boiled them separately to get the timing right, then sliced the potatoes
3. Once pasta is finished strain, leaving about 1/4 cup of hot pasta water in the pot. Then return the pasta to the pot and add the pesto, potatoes and green beans. Adjust seasoning then serve.
* Serves 4
- Pesto <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesto>
- Pesto <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesto>
- Moretum <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moretum>
- Pesto Genovese: Emblema della Grande Cucina Italiana nel Mondo <http://www.gvci.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=625&Itemid=1041>