Basil Pesto with Potatoes, Green Beans and Pasta
July 17, 2012
[Elaine] in vegetarian

I have so much basil growing right now it's fantastic and a problem at the same time.  I always grow too much and this year I really overdid it.  In addition to planting some out on the patio in pots, I started some from seed in big trays inside.  I did three plantings at different dates. My plan was to actually remove the plants from the trays when they got 6 to 8 leaves - just at the perfect time to harvest.  This is what they do in Liguria, where pesto is King. They only use the youngest, most tender leaves. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I found myself cutting off the leaves and letting more grow! What a wimp.   Now I have a ton more basil than I need.  So I'm really making pesto a lot.  

Maybe you have an overabundance of basil now, too.  Pesto is the answer - use it to spread on grilled chicken, toss it on pasta with shrimp, spread it on a sandwich or even make basil pizza!  This dish is a traditional dish from Liguria - potatoes, pasta and green beans tossed with pesto.  It's very popular in that region. You may think the potatoes and pasta is an odd combination, but it makes a fantastic vegetarian dish.

You only need one cooking pot to make this entire dish - you boil the pasta, greens beans and potatoes in the same pot. You don't boil them all together because it would be hard to time each ingredient correctly.  The water must be heavily salted - this does a few important things.  One, it lends flavor to your pasta.  Two, it maintains the bright green color of the beans and three, it keeps the potatoes firm after they are cooked.  These last two tips I learned from Thomas Keller - this is how he insists vegetables be cooked at The French Laundry and he's right - it really works.  Otherwise, your potatoes fall apart and lose their shape and the green beans lose their brightness.  

You can boil the potatoes and then slice them, or slice them and then boil them.  I like to slice them first and then boil them because then I don't have to handle the hot potatoes and also the cooking time is faster if you slice them first.

You can actually freeze fresh basil leaves and/or freeze the pesto you make.

I know I'm going to get a lot of e-mails asking me where I got that bowl in the opening photo, so I might as well tell you right now.  When we were on the Amalfi Coast with my brother and sister-in-law, we went to this FABulous ceramic shop in Ravello.  By this time, I had already bought some ceramics in Positano and Amalfi and by the time we got to this shop, I felt like I shouldn't get anything else. Wouldn't you know - they had the most beautiful, unusual pattern at this shop. Leta, my sister-in-law, and I were drooling over the pieces.  We left the store, deciding we didn't need to buy anything else.  But then she and my brother went back in to look again.  I waited outside, watching them through the window.   I snapped this shot through the open window of them. She is talking up the shopkeeper and  I figured she had given in to temptation and was ordering a piece.

Fast forward to May, when we went to their house for a visit.  She pulls out a gift for Brian and I, to thank us for making a lot of the arrangements on the trip.  It was this beautiful ceramic bowl from that darn shop in Ravello! I had no clue. What a surprise and I love, love it. That was so nice of them and completely unexpected.

Basil Pesto with Potatoes, Green Beans and Pasta

for a printable recipe click here

 serves 4

I never measure anything for this recipe.  I grab two handfuls of greens beans, count out a few potatoes according to how many people I am serving, eyeball the pasta - you get it.  So the amounts I'm giving you are just a base.  You can make this recipe the way you want - if you want more greens beans and less pasta, just adjust it how you like it.  The star here, as far as I'm concerned, is the pesto. Enjoy.  


* if you find pine nuts too expensive, raw walnuts or even raw almonds can be substituted



You only need one large pot to cook everything in!

Fill a large pot with water and the potatoes and add about 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt. You want the water to be nicely salted to not only flavor the pasta, but to maintain the shape of the potatoes and the greenness of the beans.   Bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they are just done, about 13 - 15 minutes.  Take a slice out and poke it with a sharp knife to test.  If it easily pierces it, they are done.  Remove the potatoes with a strainer or spider and place in a large serving bowl.  Do not dump out your water. 

To the same pot and water, add the green beans and cook until they are just done, about 7-8 minutes.  Make sure they are done all the way, with no hint of a raw flavor.  Remove with the spider and add the beans to the potatoes in your serving dish.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the linguini until just al dente - about 8 minutes.  Test for doneness. Remove with a pair of tongs and add to your serving dish.  A little bit of pasta water on the linguini is fine - this will help make a "sauce" of the pesto.

While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.  Place the cheese and the garlic in a food processor and process until fine.  Add the basil and pine nuts and process. Start adding the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto is all thoroughly processed.  You may have to use a spatula to scrape it down.  Taste the pesto and add a little sea salt if you like.

Add the pesto and a few grinds of black pepper to the serving bowl ingredients and toss well.  Add a tablespoon or two of the hot pasta water if you need help in blending the pesto.   Serve at room temperature.  

Leftovers the next day are great. 


Other recipes using pesto:

Pesto Lasagna

Pefect Pesto with Pasta Squares

Article originally appeared on The Italian Dish (
See website for complete article licensing information.