Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans | CUESA

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Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans


Joyce Goldstein, chef and author

This recipe was demonstrated for CUESA’s Market to Table program on August 27, 2011.

Serves 4

8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 new potatoes
1 ⅓ cup small green beans cut in 1 ½ inch pieces (about 2 ounces)
¾ pound fresh tagliarini or fettuccine
1 cup pesto (recipe below)
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.     Rub new potatoes with a generous tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast them in a 350 oven until cooked through, about 35 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time for even cooking. Or parboil in salted water until cooked through but not soft. .When they are cool, cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Remove pesto from refrigerator.

2.    Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Remove with slotted spoon to a colander, drain and refresh with cold water. Drain again and pat dry. Keep the water at a boil.

3.    Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan and cook the diced potatoes over medium high heat until golden on all sides. 

4.    Drop the pasta into the boiling green bean water and stir well. Reduce heat in sauté pan to low and add green beans to the potatoes and warm through, stirring well. Turn off the heat and when the pasta is done, drain but reserve 2 tablespoons of warm pasta water. Add the pesto and the pasta water to the vegetables in the pan, toss well and then toss with the drained pasta.  Serve at once, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. 


The classic basil pesto from the Italian region of Liguria is most widely used as a sauce for fresh pasta. It can be transformed into fragrant vinaigrette just by thinning it with a little extra virgin olive oil and mild vinegar. Traditionally, this emulsified sauce is assembled with a mortar and pestle (hence its name, from pestare, to pound or crush), a technique which requires considerable practice and elbow grease. I am, however, a realist and know that most of us will use a food processor or blender. (We are not from Genoa and it is not part of our tradition, so there’s no need to apologize for our expediency.) No matter what tools we use to create the emulsion, the same culinary advice applies.

Select Genovese type basil (not the more exotic Thai, purple or lemon basil) with the smallest, most tender leaves you can find. No large, tough leaves that have been baked in the sun. Tender little leaves break down more easily and are sweeter. Add garlic and pine nuts and crush them all together, then beat in the oil, drop by drop to emulsify the sauce. Once the pesto is prepared, transfer it to a jar or container and film the top with a thin layer of olive oil. This will help preserve its green color. Every time you scoop some out, re-film the top with oil. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a month, or frozen for 3 to 4 months.

I prefer to use Ligurian or Provencal olive oils. They are light and fruity because the olives are harvested when quite ripe. Strong, peppery Tuscan oils, prepared with green under-ripe olives, will overpower the basil. If that is all you have, cut it with a pure olive oil or mild vegetable oil. I don’t add cheese to pesto or the pesto dressing, but may offer it as an option for sprinkling later on.

Yield: 2 ½ cups approximately

2 cups (tightly packed) basil leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic, about 4 cloves 
2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Up to 1 cup mild and fruity olive oil or half extra virgin oil and half pure oil, or all pure oil

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the container of a food processor or blender.  Pulse a few times to chop the ingredients into small fragments. Add about half of the oil and pulse or puree quickly.

Add the rest of the olive oil, as much as you need to make a thick puree. Do not over blend or process. You should be able to see tiny pieces of basil leaf rather than a green homogenous paste. Transfer the pesto to a jar and film the top with a little olive oil, to keep its bright green color.  The pesto will keep for a month in the refrigerator.



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