Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Trenette With Spinach Pesto

Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Trenette With Spinach Pesto
Pesto originally comes from the region of Liguria where it is most often paired with trenette – a small, twisted type of pasta noodle. In this recipe, the pesto is made with spinach and some basil, but the intriguing part is to cook the potatoes and green beans together with the boiling pasta. The size of the potatoes have to be uniform and cubed to ensure cooking time with al dente trenette.

Serve 6


1 bunch/10 ounces spinach

3 garlic cloves (medium, coarsely chopped)

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon chopped basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced 1/2 inch dice

1/2 pound fresh or frozen green beans cut in 1- inch size

1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or to taste)

1/8 teaspoon salt (or fine sea salt, to taste)

1 pound linguine (or spaghetti or capellini)

Garnish: shredded or grated Parmesan cheese


Wash the spinach thoroughly to remove any sand and grit. Remove and discard the stems and then rinse the leaves again. Chop the leaves coarsely. You should have about 4 to 6 cups of packed leaves or about 6 to 8 ounces. Place about 1 cup of the spinach leaves, the garlic, pine nuts, basil, and a few teaspoons of the olive oil in a food processor container fitted with the metal blade. Cover and pulse until the leaves begin to look crushed. Continue adding spinach to the blender, a handful at a time, along with small amounts of oil. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and push the leaves down.

Add the Parmesan cheese and kosher salt, to taste. Cover and continue to process until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more salt and more Parmesan cheese, if you like. Set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package. After about 5 minutes add potatoes and green beans to the cooking water and continue cooking until pasta and potatoes are both ready. Drain in a colander, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Toss the hot drained pasta, potatoes and green beans with about half of the spinach pesto mixture along with a tablespoon or two of the cooking water to moisten. Continue to add more of the pesto with small amounts of water (as needed), a little at a time, until the pasta is well coated. If you have extra pesto sauce, freeze it in a small container for another meal.

…little history

Pesto is one of the gastronomic symbols of Genoa and the wider region of Liguria. This basil-based sauce was created during the 19th century in this splendid corner of northern Italy.  According to tradition, pesto Genovese must be prepared using a marble mortar and a wooden pestle so that the basil doesn’t oxidize and is able to give off all of its wonderful aromas. If pesto is made using a blender or food processor, the metal blade chops rather than rubs the basil leaves, bringing out fewer flavors. Although we said that the original recipe for pesto comes from two centuries ago, it derives from a basil sauce made for the first time in Genoa in the high middle Ages. Historian G.P. Sacco wrote that at the end of the 11th century, the leader of Genoa, Guglielmo Embriaco, participated in the first crusade, together with other Genovesi, helping to conquer Jerusalem. Captain Bartolomeo Decotto was a part of the troop and, noting the amazing curative properties of basil, decided to bring some seeds with him to Genoa from the Holy Land. Back in Liguria, the captain began cultivating basil, first using it as an herbal medicine, then as a ingredient by pounding it with oil in a mortar. This was the first Italian basil-based sauce that over the course of the centuries became what we know it as today.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog


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