If you’ve seen Pixar’s Luca, chances are good that you’re already familiar with Trenette al Pesto! Simple in nature, this traditional Ligurian pasta dish consists of trenette pasta (though spaghetti, linguine, or bucatini will work fine) tossed with a homemade basil Genovese sauce, green beans, and tender cooked potatoes. Sounds dreamy, right?
The best part? The pasta, potatoes, and green beans cook in one pot at the same time!
In the movie Luca, the recipe hails from Disney-Pixar Director Enrico Casarosa who spent his summers on the Italian Riviera. In the cutest scene imaginable, seamonster kids are treated to a big bowl of trenette al pesto which they devour with their hands. It’s all kinds of adorable!
As an added bonus, you can watch this adorable video released from Pixar on how to make trenette al pesto!
Homemade Basil Pesto
Making homemade pesto could not be simpler! You’ll need fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, a chopped garlic clove, lemon zest, Kosher salt, black pepper, and a good amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment, then blend until very finely chopped. With the blender running, drizzle in olive oil until a sauce forms. And that’s it! Homemade basil pesto in minutes!
Alternatively, you could make the pesto with a mortar and pestle. We like the convenience of a food processor, but a mortar is more traditional.
Homemade pesto will keep for up to 5 days when stored in an airtight container in a fridge.
Can I Use Store Bought Pesto Instead?
Yes, if you have a brand of pesto that you love, feel free to use it. We think homemade pesto has a brighter, fresher flavor, but use what you’ve got! And while not traditional, you could certainly use other types of pesto in this recipe. Our arugula pesto has a spicy, peppery flavor (it’s so good!!), but if you can get your hands on fresh local ramps in the spring time, be sure to try our ramp pesto!
How To Make Trenette Al Pesto
Trenette al Pesto is such a great on pot meal! You can make the basil pesto a few days in advance (or use store-bought), then when you’re ready to eat, boil the potatoes, green beans, and pasta together in a large pot of salted boiling water.
When the pasta is al dente, reserve some cooking water, then drain. Next, add the pesto sauce to the same pot and return the cooked vegetables and pasta to the pan. Cook over medium heat, adding reserved pasta water as needed to make more of a sauce, until everything is evenly coated.
We like to top the finished pasta with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated Pecorino Romano is traditional, feel free to use that instead!) and lots of freshly cracked pepper. It’s so tasty!
Origins of Trenette al Pesto
Trenette is a shape of pasta that is long and thin (similar to spaghetti or linguine). In trenette al pesto, the pasta is seasoned simply with basil pesto. There are often cut green beans and cubed potatoes mixed in.
This traditional Ligurian dish hailing from Genoa is a one pot wonder that is easy to prepare and hearty!
What If I Can’t Find Trenette Pasta?
It’s definitely not a commonly found pasta shape in American stores (we searched everywhere!). No problem! Use a long thin pasta, such as linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine, or bucatini.
- Make sure to cook the pasta in salted, boiling water! Not just a pinch of salt, you really want to season it well with a a good tablespoon or two of Kosher salt.
- Don’t cook everything all at once! If you add the string beans and pasta at the beginning with the potatoes, they’ll turn to mush. Let the potatoes cook a little first, then add the pasta. Finish up by adding the string beans when there are only a few minutes left. They take about 3-5 minutes to cook total.
- Finish the pasta in a heated pan with pesto! By combining the pasta and sauce and heating them through together in a pan, you’ll find that the sauce sticks to the pasta much better than if they were simply tossed together off the heat.
- Finish the sauce with reserved pasta water! To give the sauce a creamy consistency, stir in a little reserved pasta cooking water to help thicken and give a creamier texture. This is true of all pasta dishes!
- Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt just before serving. This takes the flavor over the top!
From personal experience, we can tell you that this pasta recipe is in fact loved and adored by children. It’s got a fresh, summery taste (isn’t basil the absolute best?) that is sure to leave you satisfied!
If you make this Trenette al Pesto recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More pasta recipes to try!
- Chicken Marsala Pasta
- Rigatoni Bolognese
- Lemon Garlic Pasta with Shrimp and Scallops
- Pappardelle With Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil Cream Sauce
- Spicy Tagliatelle with Crab, Lemon, and Capers
Trenette al Pesto Recipe
For the basil pesto
- 2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated, or Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup pine nuts toasted
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 tsp lemon zest plus half a lemon juiced
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more for serving
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the pasta
- 1 lb trenette pasta can use spaghetti or linguine
- ½ lb green beans ends trimmed and cut into 1 ½ – 2 inch pieces
- 1 large Russet potato peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil for serving
- Flaky sea salt for serving
- Make the pesto sauce. Place all ingredients except for olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment: 2 ½ cups basil leaves, ½ cup grated Parmesan, ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 tsp lemon zest, ½ lemon juiced, 1 tsp Kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Pulse until very finely chopped.
- Finish with olive oil. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until smooth and emulsified. Set aside or store in a fridge until needed.
- Boil the water. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, then season generously with 1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt.
- Cook the potatoes. Carefully place the peeled cubed potato into the boiling water. Cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the pasta and string beans. Add pasta to the same large pot, then give it a good stir. Cook until al dente according to package instructions (usually 9-13 minutes, depending on the pasta). After 5 minutes, add the cut string beans. Check to make sure each ingredient is fully cooked, then reserve ½ cup of cooking water. Drain everything.
- Toss with pesto sauce. To the same large pot, pour in the prepared pesto sauce. Place over medium heat, then add the drained pasta and veggies along with ½ cup of reserved pasta cooking water. Toss until heated through and the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.
- Finish, then serve. Plate the pasta, sprinkle with additional Parmesan, then drizzle each portion with a little extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt, and extra black pepper, if wanted. Serve immediately!
- Basil pesto will keep for up to 5 days in a fridge.
Kristen Berry says
Made this last night and it was delicious. Leftovers heated up nicely too! Served a green salad along side. Thank you!
Ari Laing says
It’s a fun one! My kiddos love this (which actually surprised me lol). Glad you enjoyed! xo, Ari