Trofie al Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto Sauce)

1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 23 cups fresh, tender basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano, plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • Salt
  • 1 pound trofie or trenette (or spaghetti)

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  1. Gently wash the basil in cold water and pat dry with a towel. Crush a clove of garlic in a mortar and add some basil (30 leaves per clove), and then a pinch of salt. Using a gentle circular motion, use the mortar to pound the basil until it turns into a bright green oily liquid. Repeat this process until all the basil and garlic are added. Add the pine nuts and gently crush them into the mixture. Add the cheese and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while mixing together. Avoid turning the sauce into a puree; it should have a fine, leafy consistency.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 2 minutes less than package directions). Drain, retain some of the cooking water, and place in a large, warm serving bowl. Slowly mix in the pesto sauce. Add some of the cooking water if the pasta seems too dry.
  4. Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano.


* If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor, but use it on pulse mode, so as to avoid turning this into a puree. There should be a fine, leafy consistency.

Ed's Review

I once had a bowl of trofie al pesto for dessert. We were young, carefree, and on the Italian Riviera, Zelda and I. We wandered into just any trattoria. The pasta arrived at the table. I can only describe it as indescribably delicious.  When the chef emerged from the kitchen, I lunged to hug him as he asked if we wanted dessert. All I could say was, “Yes, Si, more trofie al pesto.” He laughed and obliged.

I am always amazed by how far Pesto Genovese in America has strayed from its original, ideal perfection. How could something 1,200 years old and so beautiful, be so damned by one generation? Watered-down, over-salted, creamed, and mixed with chicken.

It’s time for pesto’s second act in America. I’ve gone to the Consortium of Pesto Genovese Producers in Liguria for the official recipe. Here are a few ground rules:

1) Use a marble mortar and a pestle (or a food processor on pulse mode as a second choice).

2) Don’t be cheap with the ingredients. Use the freshest basil you can find. Wash it gently and pat it dry. Use Italian olive oil, cheese, and pine nuts.

3) Trofie and trenette are the preferred pasta choices.

4) Practice and enjoy the process.

5) Because you’re worth it.

Buon Appetito!

Ed Garrubbo

9 thoughts on “Trofie al Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto Sauce)”

  1. Ed,
    Your commentaries alone are worth getting your wonderful Garrubbo Guide for.
    Great overview on pesto. How right you are! Parmesan out of a bottle – puleeze.
    As you well know, this pesto with shrimp & linguine is another divine combination.

  2. If you go through the trouble of making your own pesto you might as well make your own trofie, really a piece of cake to make, I’ve been doing this for years, you can’t beat it with trofie from packet

  3. I made this today with fresh basil..and all fresh ingredients. With one bite we were brought back to Vernazza. Thank you, the recipe was perfect!

  4. I would like the recipe for trufie

    And the recipe for the pesto.

    just had it on the walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino and it was magnificent.
    Would love to be able to make it myself

  5. The first time I had this in Liguria, I ate an entire platter by myself. How can pesto be so much better there than here! Well, you are certainly right about the ingredients. Lugurian olive oil preferred.


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