Northern Italian Pasta With Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans Recipe

Updated on January 22, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.


The Beginning of a Love Affair

A warm mid-October breeze filled with the scent of rosemary and salt air; the sound of waves gently lapping against the breakwater; the sun, a ball of flame, sinking into the Ligurian Sea. These were our introduction to Vernaza and how we will always remember her.

Italy and the Cinque Terra

In the Autumn of 2006, my husband, daughters, and I travelled to Europe. We spent a day in Venice and several days in Maniago and Aquillia. A short drive north took us through Austria and then to Slovenia where we visited my cousins. But most of our stay was in Italy.

The weather was ideal. Although our trip spanned mid-September to mid-October, there was only one brief hour of rain. The days were warm, but not hot, and evenings were a balmy, shirt-sleeve temperature. Absolutely perfect.

Of all the places we visited, my fondest memories are of the Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre (5 Lands) is five small coastal villages on the west coast of Italy. Monterosso, the northernmost town, is the only one that feels "touristy." If you love the Riviera (beach, boardwalk, luxury hotels), this is the place for you. Then there is Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza. These four still hold their old-world charm with narrow crooked streets, bell towers, castellos, fishing boats—and a footpath links all five of them together. My favorite of the five, and the place at which we stayed, was Vernazza.

Vernazza is described in guidebooks as "a quaint little fishing village," but it is so much more than that. Colorful homes cling to the cliffs. A lovely harbor nestles under the shadows of an ancient castle. The hills are dotted with ancient olive trees and wine-producing grape vines which are still tended by hand on steeply terraced slopes. Most of all, Vernaza is about putting aside the frantic pace, inhaling deeply, and taking life at a slower pace.

Our introduction to Vernazza

We stepped off the train at Vernazza in mid-afternoon...and stepped into another world. There are no cars in Vernazza. No traffic. No horns blaring. Just the pleasant sound of people laughing and talking, merchants bargaining with townsfolk and tourists. A gentle sloping cobblestone road leads through the center of town past storefronts and apartments. Within 10 minutes we arrived at Trattoria Gianni.

Whitewashed steps led to the room we had rented for the weekend. We hastily unpacked, and then descended the steps to the plaza. One hundred feet away was the sand, the breakwater, and a view of the sea, which becomes the ocean, and becomes forever.

As evening approached, we sat at a table in the courtyard of Trattoria Gianni. Our meal began with a mixed seafood salad, a basket of crusty bread, and a bottle of Gianni's family wine. We asked our server for his recommendation for the evening meal; he said "You must try the trofie."

It was love at first bite. Trofie is a free-form pasta (no machine required) most often cooked with thinly-sliced new potatoes and slender fresh green beans, all tossed with homemade basil pesto.

The people of Vernazza brag that pesto was invented in their town. I don't know if that is true, but Gianni's pesto was so wonderful that I am willing to spread the rumor.

When we returned home, I did my best to replicate that amazing meal. What follows is my attempt.

One word of caution—this is not a meal you can whip up in 30 minutes or less. Making this pasta takes time. So save this one for a rainy afternoon. You could even enlist the kids to help.

How to prepare Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans

Cook Time

Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 2 hours 15 min
Yields: Serves 4-6 people

First, Make the Pasta Dough


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold water


  1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a fork, start mixing the flour into the water keeping the wet mixture in the center of the well. When the mixture gets too thick for a fork, mix the dough with your hand until all the flour is incorporated and the dough looks cohesive.
  2. Clean your hands and press your thumb into the dough. It should feel tacky, but your thumb should come out clean without any dough stuck to it. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, knead for a minute and test again.
  3. Once the dough is the right consistency, it needs some serious kneading. Place it onto a clean work surface and knead for 8 minutes by folding and turning 90 degrees after each fold. Always turn the dough in the same direction. Do not short cut this step! You should end up with dough that is as smooth as a baby's bottom.
  4. Form the dough into a thick disk, sprinkle with flour, wrap in plastic, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Shape the Pasta

  1. Sprinkle a large cookie sheet with flour.
  2. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Place the dough on floured work surface and keep it covered with plastic wrap except when using.
  3. Cut a 2/3-inch strip from the dough with a knife.Roll it on lightly floured surface with 2 hands into a 1/3-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into 1/4-inch wide pillows.
  4. Pick up one pillow with your right hand and place it at the heel of your left hand. Hold your left hand in place over the cookie sheet. Roll your right hand forward in a fast motion applying pressure. Your piece of pasta will turn into a little cylinder with tapered ends. Drop it onto the cookie sheet. Don't roll your hands back and forth or you'll untwist the pasta. Repeat with the remaining pillows of dough, dropping them all over the cookie sheet so that they touch as little as possible.
  5. Sprinkle the trofie with extra flour and gently toss them around to coat.
  6. Trofie can be shaped 1 hour before cooking and kept uncovered at room temperature.

Make the Amazing Meal

In addition to the trofie pasta, you will need:

  • new potatoes (Yukon golds are wonderful)—enough to make 2 cups sliced
  • fresh green beans—again, enough to make 2 cups sliced. Look for green beans that are thin/young
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup pesto (homemade is best)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

NOTE - If you don't want to take the time to make trofie you can still enjoy this meal by substituting penne, fusilli, gemelli, or any other medium-sized pasta.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (at least 4 quarts). Season heavily with salt (fresh, homemade pasta will be in the pot for only a minute, so your water has to be salty enough to season it).
  2. When the water comes to a simmer drop in the potato slices and cook until almost tender—about 4 minutes. Lift out with a skimmer and set aside.
  3. Next, drop in the green beans. I remove the stem end and cut them in half, leaving the blossom end intact. Cook about 3 minutes or until tender-crisp, and remove with a skimmer and set aside with the potatoes.
  4. Pour the pasta from cookie sheet into a colander and shake to remove the excess flour.
  5. When the water is at a rolling boil, pour the pasta into the pot, give it a stir and cover. After 30 seconds, start testing every 15 seconds until the pasta is desired tenderness. It should be supple with a little bite. This usually takes 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the size of your pasta and how long it sat on the cookie sheet. If using store-bought pasta, (see note above), cook according to package directions.
  6. When pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and then drain.
  7. Add the olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Toss in the potatoes and green beans and the freshly cooked, drained pasta. Cook for a minute or two to reheat. Stir in the pesto and continue to cook and stir until everything is coated with pesto and is heated through. If the dish seems "dry" stir in some of the reserved pasta cooking water.
  8. Serve and garnish with the grated Parmesan.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here are the beans. Line them up, stem ends at one side. Slice off the stem then chop them in half (or in three pieces if yours are long).Cooked, drained potato slices are hanging out with the cooked green beans waiting for the completion of the dish.Cooked pasta, potatoes, and green beans are in a saute pan getting all warm and cozy. Notice that I used store-bought pasta this time.Add the pesto and stir.Here's my serving with a grating of Parmesan on top.
Here are the beans. Line them up, stem ends at one side. Slice off the stem then chop them in half (or in three pieces if yours are long).
Here are the beans. Line them up, stem ends at one side. Slice off the stem then chop them in half (or in three pieces if yours are long).
Cooked, drained potato slices are hanging out with the cooked green beans waiting for the completion of the dish.
Cooked, drained potato slices are hanging out with the cooked green beans waiting for the completion of the dish.
Cooked pasta, potatoes, and green beans are in a saute pan getting all warm and cozy. Notice that I used store-bought pasta this time.
Cooked pasta, potatoes, and green beans are in a saute pan getting all warm and cozy. Notice that I used store-bought pasta this time.
Add the pesto and stir.
Add the pesto and stir.
Here's my serving with a grating of Parmesan on top.
Here's my serving with a grating of Parmesan on top.

© 2013 Linda Lum


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Jodah - My philosophy is that food should be more than something to eat. It should create memories--this meal was certainly a memorable one, and whenever I prepare this dish I am reminded of this beautiful place. Thank you for your comments.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub CarbDiva...both your trip to Italy and the wonderful recipe. Thanks for sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)