Apr 26th, 2011 by Selina
If Italy had contributed nothing but pasta dishes to the world of cuisine, it would have been sufficient for immortality. — Craig Claiborne
Spring has finally arrived in upstate New York! It’s about time. Today it was sunny, 70+ degrees Fahrenheit, just like the way it should be at this time of year. In any case, with spring comes produce that have made a comeback to remind us that life isn’t all about winter vegetables, though I do appreciate squash and the like. Fresh basil is finally back in full force, especially thanks to Finger Lakes Fresh, a local hydroponics greenhouse that produces lovely, fragrant bundles of basil right at my fingertips.
While I am living my day to day life in beautiful Ithaca, New York, I often dream about visiting the Northern Italian region of Liguria, where my other half is from. It has a remarkable resemblance to California in terms of climate and rich agriculture. Nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps, it’s a land of stark contrasts and beautiful sceneries, where farmers have carved every possible inch of land out of the steep hills to create masterful terraces where they have grown some of their best treasures for centuries, among which olives and basil reign supreme. Among rabbits and wild boar, Sanremo shrimps and breams, there is something that’s truly Ligurian and that blends the best ingredients of the region: pesto! A perfect combination of extra virgin olive oil, pignolia nuts (from the numerous pine trees found on the hills of the area), basil, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this worldwide-appreciated sauce is as timeless as the flavors associated with this beautiful stretch of land.
Because spring is in the air, and because Italy is on my mind, I chose to highlight the freshness of basil pesto using Barilla Tortellini, topped with tender crisp green beans, potatoes, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano — authenticity and simplicity at its finest. This can easily be served with a basic salad, such as mixed greens or arugula lightly dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper. To complement such a wonderful burst of flavors, a fine wine pairing is a rich and bright white wine from Sardinia, Argiola Costamolino Vermentino Di Sardegna. This pairing works particularly well given that the varietal Vermentino is the most-grown grape in Liguria, where it’s known as Pigato. Buon Appetito!
Tortellini al Pesto alla Genovese Recipe
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
- 35 basil leaves (large bunch)
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/3 cup pignolia nuts
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for finishing
- 2 cups green beans, halved
- 2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 package Barilla Tortellini (12 ounces), Cheese & Spinach variety found in the dried pasta section
- Begin to boil large pot of water. Meanwhile, prepare pesto: Add basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and salt to a food processor/blender and pulse grind until smooth. Add Parmigiano and pulse grind again to combine.
- Once water comes to boil, liberally salt water and add potatoes. Boil for 5 minutes, and then add green beans. Boil for an additional 5 minutes and drain with a slotted spoon.
- Using the same pot of water, add dried tortellini and boil for about 9 minutes. Drain separately and divide equally into platters.
- For each platter, gently combine tortellini with 2 tablespoons of pesto sauce. Top with potatoes, green beans, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Large stockpot
- Food processor
- Cheese grater
- Chef knife
- Slotted spoon
- Colanders (2)