Ligurian Pasta Trenette

Yesterday I blogged about pesto. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite pesto pasta dishes. But first, I hope you’ll indulge me as I take a short trip down memory lane.

When I was on a culinary trip in Italy back in 2009, we visited a small village called Taormina. Perched on a mountainside about 45 minutes from the Mt. Etna volcano, Taormina is a place of jaw-dropping beauty. From the ancient Greco-Roman theater to the Saracen castle, time seems to stand still in this little village, so removed from the world.

Walking down the street, you’re greeted by stores that sell colorful local pottery and crafts.

Bakeries tempt you with colorful window displays of cookies and candies. Sweet shops offer gelato in a rainbow of colors. Taormina is a feast for the eyes.

Of course, it’s also a feast for the stomach. I found that out when we started exploring off the beaten path. Down a long narrow alleyway, the smell of home-cooked Italian wafted to our noses. Following the heavenly aroma, we found ourselves in front of a tiny restaurant. An old woman was serving a bowl of pasta to the only customer sitting inside. We walked in, hungry for whatever we were smelling. The old woman greeted us in Italian, and soon it became clear that she didn’t speak any English. Unfortunately I only knew a couple words in Italian (spaghetti? gnocchi?… la bella luna?). But when I pointed to the bowl of pasta she’d just served, she smiled—she knew exactly what I wanted. Food is the international language!

To this day, I dream about that bowl of pasta. I was so impressed that I wrote down the name in a little notebook I carry with me when I travel. “Pasta Trenette.”

When I got back home, I made it my mission to find out how to make authentic Pasta Trenette. The dish has roots in Liguria, Italy. And the secret ingredient is—you guessed it!—pesto.

Here’s the recipe. It’s really easy to make and so, so tasty. The Italians make it with a pasta called trenette, which is very similar to linguini or tagliatelle. I’ve had trouble tracking down trenette pasta, so I usually use linguini. While Pasta Trenette tastes best with traditional Basil Pesto (which includes cheese), you could also make a vegan/pareve version with my dairy-free Pareve Basil Pesto. But I really recommend the cheese. Really, really.  :)

For my Basil Pesto and Pareve Pesto (Dairy Free) recipes, click here.

Recommended Products:

Vegetable Peeler

Large Pot

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Ligurian Pasta Trenette


  • 1 lb. red new potatoes, peeled
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1 lb. linguini or tagliatelle pasta
  • 1 cup pesto sauce (dairy)
  • Extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino cheese to taste (use a vegetarian cheese to keep the dish vegetarian)
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: 5-6 servings
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Trim and halve your green beans, then peel your new potatoes and cut them into large chunks.
  • Put the potatoes and the green beans into the pot of boiling salted water. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the potato pieces are tender.
  • Remove vegetables from the pot with slotted spoon.
  • Return water to a boil. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions to desired tenderness.
  • Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Return pasta to empty pot along with the cooked vegetables.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of basil pesto with a ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or melted butter. Add additional water to create a thinner sauce, if desired.
  • Pour the liquefied sauce over the pasta and vegetables, toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish each serving with grated cheese.

Comments (23)Post a Comment

  1. I did jump the gun, and I left out the green beans from my recipe. I had learned the recipe with just the potatoes, and only later learned aobut the beans. You can do it either way. I like cooking the potatoes and adding the pasta to the pot and cook them together and the potatoes are a bit softer in the end, which allows some of the potato to mix in with the pesto. Either way it is a great dish.

  2. I love your recipes. This one I could eat right through my computer monitor. Can’t wait to try this. Any reason I cant use my usual homemade pesto?

  3. Whenever I travel I specifically look for/ (follow my noise to) just those kinds of restaurants -small little “Mom and Pop” places, off the beaten path that the locals know and love but always get left out of the guide books. They always the best, most authentic home-style food :)
    This Pasta dish looks DELISOUSE!!

    1. Hi Paula, I’m sorry I don’t have a nutless pesto recipe at the moment, but if I post one I will let you know and post the link here!

    1. Mary Ruth, I think it would be excellent with asparagus. Just chop up the asparagus and poach it lightly for 2-3 minutes till tender (add the asparagus after the potatoes have been cooking for about 7 minutes). Good luck! Let me know how you like it. :)

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Magnifica! I did both, I had the vegan one that was absolutely delicious, my family had both and they loved them!!! thanks!

  5. I’m going to have to try this…this may be a summer staple meal, since there is no bake and its lite. However, I want to try it with asparagus rather than green beans. All your recipe appear so wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Where do you get the pesto sauce?
    Any you like/recommend??
    What other cheese might you use to finish this? Would it be too bland if you used a low-moisture, finely shredded mozzarella?

    1. Hi Nancy, I usually make my pesto from scratch. Here is my favorite way to make it, it only takes a few minutes to whip up:

      link to

      Of course, you can use a store bought pesto if you’re in a hurry. I would only use pecorino romano or parmesan with this dish, mozzarella will be too stringy and create kind of a gloppy mess. It really wouldn’t be the same with any other cheese, but if you’re not a fan of either pecorino or parmesan you could try crumbling some good quality sheep’s milk feta into the pasta for a salty tang. Enjoy!


  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    We had this dish at my favorite Italian restaurant, Davino’s in Belmont, CA. It was wonderful. We made it at home with reasonable success. Easy to make and great to eat. Thanks.

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