A recipe of simplicity and freshness – Lucio Galletto shows us how to make a proper Ligurian pesto, which is said to be the best, creamiest pesto in Italy. This combination of pesto, potato and green beans with trenette (a long pasta similar to linguine) is a classic dish from the region.






Skill level

Average: 3.7 (65 votes)


  • 1 large waxy potato such as desiree, peeled and diced
  • 300 g green beans, sliced lengthwise
  • 400 g dried trenette (or linguine)
  • knob of butter
  • freshly grated parmesan


  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 40 small-medium basil leaves, washed and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated mild pecorino
  • 120 ml extra virgin olive oil

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make proper Ligurian pesto, you have to use a mortar and pestle. Place the garlic, salt (which helps to keep the basil green) and basil in the mortar and start crushing. You shouldn’t pound the basil, but rather press the pestle around the sides of the mortar in a circular motion so that the ingredients meld smoothly together. Add the pine nuts (raw, not toasted) and the cheeses and keep pressing until the ingredients are blended to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the oil – as much as the pesto will absorb – mixing with a wooden spoon.

Alternatively, you can make the pesto in a blender. Place the ingredients in the blender and process on the lowest speed, and pulse every now and then, until the sauce is creamy. If you are not using the pesto immediately, pour a layer of oil over the surface to prevent discolouration.

Bring 3 litres of salted water to boil in a pot. Add the potato first and cook for 12 minutes. Add the beans 5 minutes after the potato, to cook for 7 minutes. Add the pasta to cook according to packet directions, cooking until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of cooking water.

Put half the pesto in a large bowl. Add the cooking water, potatoes, beans and pasta, and the butter, and toss well. Spoon the rest of the pesto on top, sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.


Photograhy by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd. Plate on left from Vincino; napkin from Ondene; spoon from Michael Greene Antiques; fork from The Bay Tree; upholstery fabric in background from Radford; milk bottle from Koskela.