Pasta al Pesto Ligure Recipe

Pesto is a wonderful sauce made from basil leaves and pine nuts. It’s mostly consumed in summer when basil is abundant, and it’s often enjoyed in spring, too.

This basic pasta dish is an everyday meal; it’s easy, quick, and delicious – that’s why it’s a favorite! The pasta that is used for the Pesto sauce are “Trofie,” a short and chewy pasta that is handmade and doesn’t come dried in packages, like some other types of pasta.

They might be difficult to find, but the dried short pasta (such as fusilli, penne) work just as well!

Ingredients (serves 4):

80g per person of Trofie or short dried pasta (i.e. fusilli, penne, etc.)

2 Garlic cloves (medium size)

50g Basil leaves

1 tbsp. of pine nuts

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

70g Grated Parmesan



First, place a pot of water on medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp of sea salt.

Peal the garlic and place it with 1 tsp of sea salt in the mortar, and work it until it turns creamy. Add the basil leaves and mash it until you see a bright green liquid forming at the bottom of your mortar.

At this point, add the pine nuts and mash them into the basil mixture. When it becomes creamy again, add 1 tbsp of Parmesan (the cheese has to incorporate into the mix before adding more). Once you’re done with the cheese, add the EVOO while you keep mixing. Now, your Pesto is ready!

Bring the water to a boil (it’s important that the water is boiling in order to properly cook your pasta), and pour the pasta in the pot.

If you’re using fresh pasta, it’s cooked when it comes to the surface (all of it). If you’re using dried pasta, follow the timing on the package. Before draining, pick one pasta piece and taste it to make sure it’s ready.

Place your pesto into your serving bowl and add 1 to 2 tbsp. of the cooking water and mix. (Tip: Add 1 tbsp. of water at the time; it has to lighten in color, remaining creamy. 

Drain the pasta and place in the bowl, and mix well (all the pasta should be green). Let it cool down for a couple of minutes than add a handful of grated Parmesan and serve!

(Tip: using the blender might seem faster, but it could turn the Pesto sour.)

Enjoy your homemade pesto: Buon Appetito!

Learn more about Italian food by joining a Fat Tire Tour in Milan, Florence, or Rome!

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