One of the most memorable meals I have ever had was in Corniglia, Italy, while Tom and I were hiking the Cinque Terre (if you haven’t done this, consider putting it on your bucket list). We had a simple lunch at a small restaurant operated by a woman in her 70s. She made everything herself and grew the vegetables in her garden. There was no menu, just a few daily specials that took advantage of what was in season.
A huge part of what made the experience so wonderful is that we ate on a patio outside looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. Far from the Olive Garden, billion calorie, sauce-laden pastas in America, the pasta we had was typical of the region–homemade pasta tossed with a light basil pesto and bits of potato and green beans. Delicious, satisfying and fresh. After hiking an hour and climbing almost 400 stairs to get to Corniglia, we were famished and ready to tuck in. When we finished our wonderful meal, we continued on our hike with renewed physical and emotional energy.
This recipe calls for all that is wonderful about summer–fresh potatoes, green beans, basil and (I veered from the traditional recipe) sun dried tomatoes. Yum!
Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina
- 1 lb. fresh or dried capallini or fettucine pasta
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 c. basil pesto (see below)
- 6-8 small red potatoes
- 1 c. green beans, topped and tailed and cut in 1/2
- 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Put a stock pot of water on the stove to boil.
- While water is heating, wash your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces.
- When water comes to a boil, add salt and the potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes.
- Add the green beans and pasta to the pot and continue to boil everything for 8-9 minutes.
- Reserve 1 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta and vegetables.
- Pour the pasta and vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the pesto, parmesan cheese and sun dried tomato. Toss to combine, adding pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce.
- 3 c. fresh basil
- 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. pine nuts
- 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 Tsp. lemon juice
- Put basil and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend into a paste.
- Add pine nuts, cheese, garlic and remaining oil. Blend until smooth.
Basil pesto should be made fresh and used the same day. Or, you can freeze pesto (this works very well if you buy a plastic ice cube tray and freeze the pesto in the trays–just pop out a cube and use in a sauce!).