As any Italian will tell you, nobody cooks better than their Nonna. Discover this simple and comforting dish which the whole family will love, as featured in Vicky Bennison’s book Pasta Grannies, inspired by the wildly popular YouTube channel of the same name
IMAGE: EMMA LEE
Basil pesto or pesto alla Genovese is the world’s second-most popular pasta condimento, or dressing. Pesto has now come to mean any herb-and-nut combination you can think of pairing. Rosetta and her friends add an un-classic fresh cheese called prescinsêua to their pesto. This has a tangy, yoghurt-like flavour with a consistency similar to ricotta. Of course, they like the taste, but it’s also a way of making expensive ingredients go further. Because of this, I have called Rosetta’s recipe a basil sauce rather than a strict pesto, as it is creamier than usual.
Pesto alla Genovese is usually served with trofie pasta, and it is only fairly recently that manufacturers found a way to extrude this shape through their bronze dies. Prior to this, the local pasta business in the little town of Sori commissioned ladies in the area to make it, and Rosetta is one of them. After she married, she wanted to earn some money while bringing up her children, and so learnt how to make it. She says it took several days of prac- tice to get the twirl tight and the pasta all the same size; now it’s second nature and her skills are such that she appears on Italian TV and YouTube (Pasta Grannies, thank goodness).
IMAGES: EMMA LEE
Rosetta’s Trofie with Basil Sauce
for the pasta
- 400g (14 oz / 3 1/3 cup) 00 flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
- 180 ml (6 fl oz / 3/4 cup) boiling water, or enough liquid to bring the dough together
for the basil sauce
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, preferably Italian
- 1 plump garlic clove, one that has not developed its 'anima' or green shoot
- 75 ml (21/2 fl oz/5 tablespoons) extra- virgin olive oil, preferably Ligurian or other grassy-tasting oil
- 150 g (5 oz) fresh basil leaves
- 4 tablespoons prescinsêua cheese, or live Greek-style yoghurt
- 80 g (3 oz) Grano Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 20 g (3/4 oz) Pecorino Sardo, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 150 g (5 oz) green beans, halved (optional)
- Place the flour in a mixing bowl then gradually add the water. Use a fork to make a dough that feels soft but not sticky. Turn it out onto a floured pasta board and knead it until it is smooth and silky. This will take around 10 minutes.
- Cover the dough with the bowl so it doesn’t dry out and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
- Pinch off a pea-sized piece and roll it outwards over the board with the palm of your hand to create a spindle shape. Pull your hand back diagonally across your body, pressing down gently but firmly on the pasta with the edge of your hand. You should create a twisted piece of pasta, which looks like a corkscrew. You can also try it with a bench scraper if you cannot get the hang of it with your hands.
- Make the basil sauce by blitzing everything together in a blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the trofie for about 2 minutes. The length of time will depend on how big your trofie are, so test one for doneness. Use a sieve or slotted spoon to scoop out the pasta once it’s cooked and place in a large serving bowl. Add the green beans, if using, to the hot water; blanch for 3 minutes and add to the pasta. Stir through the basil sauce. No extra cheese is needed.
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