This classic Italian dish is Cate's all-time favorite meal and has been since she was a toddler. I remember my dear friend Karen feeding it to her twin boys when they were still in high chairs and seem to recall she got the inspiration for the dish from a mutual editor friend who worked with me at Glamour at the time. I've used a variety of pesto sauces over the years: I used to buy it pre-made from the Vinegar Factory when we lived in NYC and then when we moved up the Hudson, I started buying it from the now-defunct Gracie's Ravioli in Nyack. When Gracie's closed its doors, I decided it was about time I make my own. I use Alice Waters' recipe from The Art of Simple Food, which I love. When I'm short on time, I'll use my food processor instead of pounding all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. I sometimes double the recipe below so I have leftovers for sandwiches, pizza, minestrone, etc. It also freezes nicely, so you can save the pesto for a future meal. And while I'm sure Stephan's nonna would have boiled the pasta, potatoes and beans all together in one pot, I prefer to cook them all separately.
Ingredients for Pesto Sauce
- 1 bunch of basil, to yield about 1 lightly packed cup
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preparation for Pesto
- Wash and dry basil and pick the leaves off the stems. Place in food process or (or mortar and pestle if you're going the manual route).
- With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic clove and salt to a paste. Add toasted pine nuts and continue to pound. If using food processor, scrape mixture into the food processor with the basil. (Otherwise, complete all steps with mortar and pestle.)
- Add olive oil to food processor and blend until just smooth. (Don't over-blend or it will become too liquidy.)
- Pour mixture into a bowl and add cheese. Mix well. Taste for salt and adjust, if needed. Set aside and follow steps below.
- 8 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces (I like to use haricot vert, but any beans will do)
- 12 oz. of your favorite pasta (I like to use penne or cavatappi; Cate loves spaghetti)
- 1/2 pound new potatoes, cut in half
- Freshly ground Parmesan
- Boil two pots of water--a large one for the pasta (which I also use to blanch the beans) and a smaller one for the potatoes.
- When large pot of water is boiling, throw beans in for about 2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans and add to a large serving bowl.
- Add pasta to large pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, add potatoes to smaller pot of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Drain when done, and place in the large bowl with the beans.
- When pasta is cooked, remove about 1 cup of hot water and set aside. Drain pasta and add to the serving bowl.
- Add pesto sauce to the serving bowl and mix all ingredients well. If the pasta seems a bit dry, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved hot water to the bowl and mix again.
- Serve hot or at room temperature and top with grated Parmesan.