Rebecca’s Recipe of the Week: Pesto, Potatoes, Pasta . . .

July 28, 2017 by General Administrator

Pasta with Green Beans, Potatoes and Pesto

Perhaps this recipe is from Liguria. In any event, it’s delicious and very summery. Pesto often includes garlic, but I think for this light, delicate dish it’s better to focus on the basil and vegetables. I like this with buckwheat pasta but you can use whatever kind you favour. And if you’ve never included potatoes in a pasta dish, well, you’re in for a treat.

Serves 4

The proportions for this dish are very approximate. And you can add little bits of brigh red cherry tomato, if you like.

For the Pesto 
50g pine nuts
1 big bunch of basil (about 50g)
100ml olive oil (or a little more if the pesto seems too dry)
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
zest of half a lemon

The Other Ingredients
300g potatoes (about 3 medium-sized Canalside ones)
150g green beans, topped and tailed, and cut in half if they are very long
2 teaspoons salt (for cooking the pasta)
400g long, thin pasta (fettucine, linguine, trenette, etc.)
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Additional cheese, to serve

To make the pesto:
Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the pine nuts (you don’t need any oil) and toast them until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Once they’re done tip them onto a plate to cool down a bit.

Meanwhile, remove the basil leaves from the stems. Stack up the leaves in a pile and shred them into fine strips.
Put the cooled-down pine nuts into a mortar and mash them up with the pestle. Pine nuts are soft, so it should be easy to reduce them to a crumble. Once they’re broken up and crumbly, add the shredded basil and the olive oil and mash them up into a rough paste. Add a little more oil if it seems too stiff. Stir in the grated cheese and lemon zest.

There’s your pesto. I think it’s nicer to have it a bit chunky, but if you prefer you can carry on mashing until you’re reduced it to a smoother, more homogenous consistency. Of course you can also do this in a food processor. Doing it by hand is pretty easy and gives you more control over the texture. Once the pesto is ready you can proceed with the rest of the recipe or set it aside for later. Pesto keeps for ages in the freezer.

To complete the recipe:
Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring them slowly to the boil. Once they’re boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and cook them until they’re tender. The current Canalside potatoes are taking about 20 minutes for the medium-sized ones. Fish them out of the water and leave them to cool. DON’T discard the water, as you will use it to cook the beans. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle slice them thick or thin, or cut them into 1cm cubes. Put them in a serving bowl.

Bring the water back to a boil and cook the beans for about 3 minutes, or until they’re as tender as you like them. Drain the beans and add them to the potatoes. Alternatively, you can fish the beans out of the water as you did with the potatoes, thereby keeping the water to use for cooking the pasta, as well.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil (or use your potato-bean water), add the salt, and return to the boil. When it’s really boiling add the pasta and cook to your preference. Drain the pasta, RETAINING ONE CUP OF WATER TO ADD TO THE SAUCE. It’s easiest to do this by to dipping some out of the pot (using a mug) before you drain it.

Add the drained pasta to the dish with the potatoes and beans. Add about half of your cup of water to the bowl and toss it about. Stir in several generous spoonfuls of pesto and toss. Now assess it: if it seems a bit dry stir in some more of your cooking water. If you’d like more pesto, add it. Season it with black pepper and serve. Bring a chunk of cheese to the table in case anyone wants additional cheese.

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