Authentic Genovese Trofie al Pesto (Liguria Recipe)

My Trofie al Pesto recipe is inspired by a cooking class I took in Cinque Terre many, many years ago. This classic Ligurian pasta dish consists of simple ingredients like homemade pesto and pasta cooked perfectly al dente. Trofie al Pesto is a simple pesto pasta is silky and fresh. This dish features my Pesto alla Genovese recipe, but you can also use a high-quality store-bought pesto for a quicker meal!

A white plate with trofie al pesto pasta dish, topped with fresh grated cheese and red pepper flakes.


What makes this pasta so magical are the simple flavors of homemade pesto, made a bit silkier with the addition of starchy pasta water (or liquid gold, as I like to call it!). Basil pesto ingredients are simple: garlic clove, extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano reggiano cheese, pecorino romano cheese, pine nuts, and of course, fresh basil!

I hope this delicious trofie pasta transports you to the Italian Riviera! For more coastal Italian dishes, check out my Pesto Bruschetta with Marinated Tomatoes, and pair it with the perfect cocktail like my Aperol Margarita, Limoncello Martini, or for dessert, my Espresso Martini! I have plenty of Italian recipes you can try! Some of my favorites include my Fusilli alla Vodka, my Carbonara and my Chicken Cutlets!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • True Ligurian flavor — Enjoy the authentic taste of Liguria with this recipe, which brings the essence of Italy’s coastal region to your table. It will transport you to the Italian coast!
  • Simple preparation – Italian classics like this dish are all about simple, quality ingredients and easy-to-follow steps. Nothing fancy, but you’ll get an unbelievably delicious pasta al pesto from the Liguria region of Italy. 
  • Great for all occasions –  Whether you’re cooking for a cozy dinner at home or entertaining guests, this Trofie al Pesto recipe is a versatile choice. It’s equally delightful as a family favorite or a crowd-pleasing dish for gatherings of all sizes. Everyone will love this traditional Ligurian cuisine. 

Ingredients

Ingredients for trofie al pesto.

  • Trofie pasta – This kind of pasta adds a delightful chewiness and texture to the dish, perfect for soaking up the rich flavors of the pesto. When cooking trofie pasta, salt your water generously for added flavor.
  • Basi –  This fresh herb infuses the pesto sauce with its fresh and aromatic flavor, giving the dish its signature taste of summer. Choose fresh, vibrant basil leaves and avoid any that are wilted or discolored
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano adds a nutty and savory depth to the pesto, enhancing its richness and complexity. For the best flavor, opt for freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rather than pre-grated. It’s worth the extra effort!
  • Pecorino Romano cheese – Pecorino Romano cheese lends a sharp and tangy flavor to the pesto, balancing the creaminess of the Parmigiano Reggiano. Grate the Pecorino Romano cheese finely to ensure it blends seamlessly into the pesto sauce, creating a smooth texture.
  • Pine nuts – Pine nuts contribute a rich and buttery taste to the pesto, while also providing a subtle crunch. You can toast the pine nuts lightly before adding them to the pesto for a deeper, nuttier flavor profile.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil serves as the base of the pesto sauce, adding a luscious and velvety texture while binding all the ingredients together. Use the highest quality extra virgin olive oil you can find for the best flavor. Look for varieties labeled “cold-pressed” or “first cold-pressed” for superior taste.
  • Garlic – A clove of garlic infuses the pesto with its pungent and aromatic flavor, complementing the other ingredients and adding depth to the sauce.
  • Pasta water – Pasta water is a secret ingredient that helps to bind the pesto sauce to the pasta, creating a creamy and cohesive dish.

Substitutions and Additions

  • Pasta – If trofie pasta is unavailable, substitute it with another short pasta shape such as fusilli, penne, or even spaghetti.
  • Cheeses – While Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano are traditional, you can us other hard cheeses like Grana Padano or Asiago.
  • Nuts – If pine nuts are not accessible, you can use alternatives like walnuts, almonds, or cashews for a different flavor. Try my Walnut Pesto or Nut-Free Pesto!
  • Protein – Boost the protein content by adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu cubes. They’ll complement the pesto flavors beautifully.
  • Chili flakes – For a hint of heat, sprinkle some red chili flakes over the finished dish for a kick.

Step by Step Instructions

Cooked trofie pasta in a collander.

Step 1: Add the trofie pasta to salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve about a cup of pasta water. You’ll likely only need about 1/2 cup for the sauce, but it’s never a bad idea to reserve extra.

Vibrant green pesto in the bowl of a food processor

Step 2: In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, a pinch of salt, grated Parmesan, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Process until the basil leaves are finely chopped and all ingredients are well combined.

With the motor running, gradually pour the olive oil in until the pesto sauce becomes smooth and creamy.

Fresh homemade pesto added to a large glass mixing bowl.

Step 3: Transfer the freshly made pesto sauce to a large mixing bowl. Add the starchy pasta water.

Step 4: Mix the pasta water into the pesto, adjusting amounts until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Trofie pasta being tossed in a silky genovese pesto sauce.

Step 5: Add the cooked trofie pasta to the bowl with the pesto sauce and gently toss until evenly coated.

Step 6: If desired, garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Divide the Trofie al Pesto among serving plates or bowls and serve immediately.

Close up of tofie pasta and pesto sauce on a white plate.

Tips and Notes

  • Store-bought pesto – In a pinch, you can use store-bought pesto as a time-saving alternative. Substitute about 3/4 to 1 cup of store-bought pesto for the homemade version.
  • Reserved pasta water – Reserve about a cup of pasta water, even though you’ll likely only need around 1/2 cup for the sauce. Having extra pasta water ensures you can adjust the sauce’s consistency as needed without diluting the flavor.

Recipe FAQs

Yes, you can! Homemade pesto can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze pesto in ice cube trays for easy portioning and use it within 3-6 months. Just thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using.


Pasta with presto sauce on a white plate with a small bowl of red pepper flakes and garlic cloves.

Serving Suggestions

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Storage

  • Store any leftover Trofie al Pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • Ensure the dish is completely cooled before transferring it to the container to prevent condensation and maintain freshness.

Reheating

  • To reheat, gently warm the Trofie al Pesto in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • If the sauce has thickened in the refrigerator, add a splash of water or olive oil to revive it to its original consistency.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see it! Tag @seasonedandsalted on Instagram and leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review below!

Trofie al pesto or trofie pasta with genovese pesto sauce on a white plate.

Authentic Genovese Trofie al Pesto (Liguria Recipe)

Allie Hagerty
Indulge in the authentic flavors of Italy with our delicious Trofie al Pesto recipe. This Ligurian specialty combines tender pasta with vibrant basil pesto for a dish that's bursting with Mediterranean charm.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people
Calories 901 kcal

Equipment

  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • Large pot
  • Food processor or blender

Ingredients
  

  • Prepare the Pesto:
  • 1 lb trofie pasta
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 3.5 ounces
  • 6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese 1.5 ounces
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Instructions
 

Cook the Trofie Pasta:

  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water.
  • Add the trofie pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
  • Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve about a cup of pasta water. You’ll likely only need about 1/2 cup for the sauce, but it’s never a bad idea to reserve extra just in case.
  • Set aside the reserved pasta water and proceed with draining the cooked pasta.

Prepare the Pesto:

  • In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, a pinch of salt, grated Parmesan cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Process until the basil leaves are finely chopped and all ingredients are well combined.
  • With the motor running, gradually pour in the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto sauce becomes smooth and creamy.

Combine the Sauce and Pasta Water:

  • Transfer the freshly made pesto sauce to a large mixing bowl.
  • Gradually whisk in the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, until the sauce reaches your preferred consistency.

Toss and Serve:

  • Add the cooked trofie pasta to the bowl with the pesto sauce and gently toss until evenly coated.
  • If desired, garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Divide the Trofie al Pesto among serving plates or bowls and serve immediately.

Notes

Reserved pasta water – Reserve about a cup of pasta water, even though you’ll likely only need around 1/2 cup for the sauce. Having extra pasta water ensures you can adjust the sauce’s consistency as needed without diluting the flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 901kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 29gFat: 48gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 533mgPotassium: 391mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 480IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 443mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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