Trofie al Pesto: a Typical Recipe from Liguria – How to Make it

trofie al pestoTrofie with Pesto alla Genovese

Of all Ligurian specialties, the most Famous is Pesto alla Genovese: are the fragrant leaves of basil plucked on the terraced hillsides around Genova. Are pounded (pestate in Italian, hence the word pesto) in a mortar with sea salt, garlic, pine nuts, grated Pecorino and Parmigiano, and extra-virgin extra virgin olive oil into a rich, dense paste perfect for saucing fresh or dried pasta and more.

Everyone has their own recipe for Pesto alla Genovese; some cooks omit the pine nuts; some use Pecorino Sardo rather than Pecorino Romano (two firm, aged sheep’s milk cheeses that hail from different regions of Italy, the first from Sardinia and the second from Latium or Sardinia); and others fold in a bit of fresh, unsalted butter at the end.

This is the recipe our Chef wrote after years of research on Ligurian culinary traditions. I hope you will enjoy it!


Serves 4 people

For the Trofie

• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup water
• 1 teaspoon salt


Place the flour in a mound on a large floured surface and make a well in the center. Add the water and salt. Using a fork, gently start to work the flour into the liquid. Continue until the dough becomes sticky and difficult to work with the fork.

Use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 balls, cover, and let rest for 10-15 minutes. You can also make this dough in a food processor.

How to form Trofie

Shape each of the dough balls into a thick rod or cylinder Roll the dough cylinder back and forth on a very lightly floured surface until
the width of the rod is about 15 mm using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut each elongated rod into 15 mm pieces. Put the cut pieces aside and toss them with additional flour to keep them from sticking together. Place one of the pieces of dough at the top of the palm of your hand.

Place the tips of your fingers of the other hand on top of the piece of dough. Gently press down on the piece of dough and roll your
fingertips down the palm of your hand to the end of your fingers. The piece of dough will have formed into a spiral with slightly tapered ends. Do not roll the dough back and forth or you will unroll the spiral. Place the completed trofie on a lightly floured surface.

For the traditional Pesto

• a bunch of basil

• 20g pine nuts
• 1 clove of garlic
• 60g grated parmesan cheese
• 50g grated pecorino cheese (formaggio Sardo)
• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

• salt and pepper to taste


Place into a mortar (or into a modern mixer) well-washed and dried basil leaves, finely chopped garlic and pine nuts; add the necessary oil bit by bit. Once you have quite a creamy mixture, blend in cheese to bring everything together, and salt to taste. Cook the “trofie” until “al dente” in abundant salted boiling water, drain well and pour into a tureen.

Dress with pesto sauce and, should it be too thick, slightly dilute it with a glass of pasta cooking liquid. Sprinkle with grated cheese
and serve immediately.

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