Pasta alla Genovese

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This pasta alla Genovese recipe from Manuela Zangara stays true to tradition in this classic Ligurian dish, with basil pesto gently coating al dente pasta, cubed potato and green beans. It's incredibly quick to make, and packed with flavour. To make this dish vegetarian, swap the Pecorino and Parmesan with similar hard cheeses using vegetable rennet.

First published in 2017

Pesto alla Genovese is probably the most iconic dish from Genoa, the biggest city of the beautiful coastal region of Liguria. Around 1100, Genoa was one of the so-called Repubbliche Marinare – independent city-states by the sea – along with Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi. Trade, shipbuilding, and banking helped support one of the largest and most powerful navies in the Mediterranean. Trade with far-away countries was a huge part of the local culture and it also influenced local food. Pesto was born in the nineteenth century when an ancient garlic-based sauce (aglione) became pesto with the addition of basil and pine nuts, ingredients that were introduced from the East.

In Liguria, pesto is usually eaten with trenette (a pasta shape similar to linguine) or trofie (short pasta made by rolling and twirling small pieces of dough by hand). However, I also love it with potato gnocchi. Traditionally, pasta with pesto alla Genovese is served with boiled potato cubes and green beans. This particular version is called “avvantaggiata”, which means “with something extra”.

Pesto is a very popular dish in Italy, so much so that you can find “ready-made” versions in all supermarkets, from freshly made pesto to bottled ones. However, homemade pesto tastes much better and since it is very quick and easy to make, I see no reason not to make it from scratch! As with all the most popular recipes, every Italian household has its own pesto recipe, and here I will share my version with you.




Pasta with pesto Genovese

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp of pine nuts
  • 40g of basil
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp of Parmesan, finely grated (plus extra to serve)
  • 3 tbsp of pecorino, finely grated (plus extra to serve)
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large potato
  • 100g of green beans, cut into thirds
  • 400g of linguine, or trenette pasta


Begin by making the pesto. Using either a pestle and mortar or blender, grind the garlic, pine nuts and salt to a fine paste. Add the basil and oil then transfer to a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan and Pecorino. If not using immediately, cover the pesto with extra oil to prevent it discolouring (due to oxidation)
Cook the pasta al dente, following the instructions on the pack
Peel and cut the potato into 2cm cubes. Cook until tender in salted boiling water
4 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the green beans to the pan
Drain and stir through the pesto and the potatoes. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin oil and finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino (or both!)

Discover more about this region's cuisine:

Manuela is an Italian native who currently resides in Australia. She is the author of Manu’s Menu, a food blog about traditional Italian cuisine that she started in 2011. Her blog is one of the top food blogs in Australia.

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