Spaghetti and Pesto, Green Beans, Potatoes

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Spaghetti Genovese with Pesto from Spinach Tiger

Spaghetti and Pesto, Green Beans and  Potatoes is one of my favorite pesto pasta dishes.

Pesto comes from GENOVA or Genoa, located in the region of Liguria. Pesto is a combination of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino cheeses.

Pesto has a deep meaning for us as we make it for every special occasion. It’s become the go to “party” favorite, taking us through every type of celebration, including baby showers, women’s luncheons, anniversaries, birthdays and recently July 4th.

I first stumbled upon and prepared pesto pasta with green beans and potatoes long ago first discovering it in Bon Appetite. The combination of potatoes and pasta intrigued me then and it does now. It almost seems out of sorts to combine two starches, but once you experience the taste and textures, you’ll come to see how ingenious this dish is.

Marcella adds softened butter to the end of her pesto, and although I was reluctant to use butter at first, now I can’t think of leaving it out. It brings a creaminess that makes the sauce much more elegant than rustic.

I whirled the pesto to a very smooth consistency, but you can decide the texture you desire. There are many recipes and rules for pesto, but I think the texture and consistency needs to compliment the dish.   Some Italian cooks are insistent that you cannot use a food processor as it will burn the basil, and they stick with the original method of pestle and mortar. Marcella offers both recipes in her book.

Spaghetti with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans is a Genovese Dish

Pesto in the the true Italian tradition is light on the garlic, relying mainly on the taste of the basil, and the bite of the very good cheeses. If you want to cook the most delicious Italian cuisine, you must learn to edit the garlic in such a way that it would surely be missed if absent, yet it’s not the dominant flavor.

This is great for a make ahead dinner for guests. Prepare the potatoes, green beans, and pesto ahead of time. Then once guests have arrived, you can cook the pasta, and assemble, serving immediately. In the dish below, however, which was taken to a July 4th celebration, it was made ahead and served at room temperature.

Try this dish as is, and then the next time, feel free to add in your own choices of veggies…broccoli, peas, asparagus are all good choices. We usually have it with seafood (shrimps and scallops) but today, I am preparing it just a bit differently (with a bit of butter) as Marcella suggests and you can find that recipe here.

Pesto can be frozen
If you can grow your own basil as we do, you’ll see it will return far more basil than you can eat in one season. Leave out the cheese and freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, put in plastic bags and thaw as needed.

Kids Love Pesto, Flavorful Foods and Helping in the Kitchen
This is a winner with toddlers. Kids love flavor, texture and feeding themselves adult-sized bites. Make it with a large size penne that they can eat with their hands or stab easily with a fork. It’s also a great way to introduce them to savory, flavorful food that just happens to be nutritious. As a variation for kids, you can add in handfuls of fresh spinach to mix in with the basil.

Toddlers can even help with this recipe by stirring in the cheeses and butter at the end of the recipe. They can go to the garden and help you pick basil, wash it and pat it dry. The more you involve them in the process, the more they will enjoy good food and the dinner table.

I’ve made so many of Marcella Hazan’s recipes and you read about my experience cooking through her book here. I’ve also made a seven-herb walnut pesto which you can find here that would also be great on the pasta of your choice, or on toast points.

Garden Walnut Pesto

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Cooking Italy - Spaghetti and Pesto, Green Beans, Potatoes

A classic Pesto sauce with pasta adapted from Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan
Servings: 6


  • Ingredients for Pesto
  • For the Processor
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh picked basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped before processing
  • Salt
  • For completion by hand
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoon freshly grated romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • Ingredients for Complete Dish
  • Pesto Sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds pasta
  • 3 small potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons pasta water


  • Wash basil and pat with paper towels. Process ingredients for processor until you have a creamy consistency. Add in the rest of the ingredients by hand, first adding in all cheese until it is really smooth. Then add butter in at the end.
  • For assembly
  • /2 pounds pasta (I used one pound in spaghetti and 1 1/2 with fusilli)
  • small new potatoes, boiled in skin, skin removed afterward, thinly sliced
  • /2 pound young green beans, ends snapped, cut half (depending on size)
  • Save a few Tablespoons of pasta water to add into pesto
  • Toss pesto with cooked pasta, beans, and potatoes. Add in pasta water as needed. Serve immediately. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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If you love this recipe, please give it five stars. It means a lot. xoxo

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