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Gino's Italian Escape

Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes

“Originating from Genoa in Liguria, pesto is the godfather of sauces in northern Italy, where it will always be found on the menu.”
– Gino D’Acampo

Pesto’s simple ingredients combine with pasta to make a wonderful, fresh-tasting dish which is much lighter in flavour and texture than the creamy, heavier ones on offer. I love pesto and I really urge you to try to make your own – many people say they don’t like pesto sauce until they have tried a fresh, home-made one. You can replace the Pecorino with Parmesan, if you prefer.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

– 50g basil, leaves only
– 10g rocket leaves
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
– 1 large garlic clove
– 100–125ml extra virgin olive oil
– 50g pine nuts
– 10g walnuts
– 40g finely grated Pecorino cheese
– 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
– 500g of your favourite dried short pasta (I’m using Trofie)
– 100g green beans, cut into 2cm lengths

DIRECTIONS

Make the pesto in a large mortar and pestle or food processor. Place the basil and rocket leaves into the mortar then sprinkle in a pinch of salt and add the garlic. Add a dash of extra virgin olive oil then use the pestle to work everything into a paste. Once the leaves have broken down a little and the garlic is in small pieces, add the pine nuts and walnuts and start to grind them into a paste. Once you have a smoothish paste (you don’t want it completely smooth), add a good amount of black pepper and the Pecorino cheese. Pour in the remaining extra virgin olive oil and check the seasoning.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the potato cubes and cook for 4–6 minutes until tender. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the potato chunks and transfer to a plate to cool slightly.

Add the pasta to the potato cooking water and cook according to the packet instruction, but reducing the time by 1 minute. About 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the green beans.

Place the pesto in a large bowl, then, once the pasta and beans are cooked, drain them, reserving some of the cooking water. Tip the pasta and beans into the pesto, along with the potatoes and gently mix everything together to coat. Use a little of the cooking water to loosen the sauce, if necessary. Check the seasoning again, then serve.

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