What pasta should you use pesto with? Typically something from Genova such as trenette or bavette, both similar to linguine. Also try potato gnocchi, tagliatelle, lasagne (layered with pesto, boiled potato slices and blanched green beans, Parmesan, a touch of cream) or trofie (pictured). A rather old tradition still enjoyed throughout Liguria is the addition of cooked potatoes and green beans, a dish known as pesto ricco. A trick if those sweet little leaves of genoese basil aren't available and you have only large ones: blanch them quickly in boiling water before use to preserve their sweetness (and avoid that blackening oxidation). —Emiko
For the pesto:
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
a pinch of coarse sea salt
of basil leaves (one large bunch of basil)
1 to 2 tablespoons
grated pecorino cheese
of grated Parmesan
1/3 cup (delicately flavored) extra virgin olive oil
For the pesto ricco:
dried pasta such as linguine (see notes above)
small-medium sized potatoes, peeled, quartered then cut into ¼ inch slices
In a mortar, pound the garlic with the sea salt to a paste. Add the basil leaves (picked, washed with cold water and pat dry) and pound until very fine and begin to seep their bright green juice. Add the pine nuts and grind until creamy, then the cheese -- the quantities above are considered 'ideal' but for a milder flavour, go for all Parmesan. Finish with the extra virgin olive oil, added in small dribbles at a time until you have “the consistency of creamed butter” to use Elizabeth David's words.
If not using immediately, place in a jar and let sit until the oil makes its way to the top; if it does not make a sufficient 'film' over the top of the pesto to protect it, add a little bit more to seal the pesto. It will keep in the fridge well for three days. Pesto also freezes well; freeze it in an ice cube tray for portion control.
To make the pesto ricco, boil a large pot of water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Depending on the pasta you choose to go, the timings may vary here but I favour pasta with a bite, slightly crunchy greens and well cooked potato. Typically, this means, putting the pasta into the pot first, then adding the potato a couple of minutes later, then the greens for the last 5-6 minutes. If you are unsure, you can always cook the vegetables separately to your liking then combine them all at the end.
In a large bowl, place the pesto, diluted with some of the water used for cooking the pasta to create a sauce. Add the cooked pasta and vegetables and toss until combined with an extra dribble of olive oil. Serve immediately.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.