Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Trofie pasta with pesto

We had the good fortune to discover a small food, cheese and wine shop in the Portrero Hill section of San Francisco recently, where we were able to buy authentic trofie pasta from Italy. There are certainly other shops in the U.S. where trofie can be found (as well as on-line) but we had been carrying ours back in our suitcases, buying it at Carlucci's in Covent Garden in London.

The trofie we purchased in San Francisco is Saporia di Liguri, from La Bella Angiolini, made in a facility near to the original location of the oldest pastificio in Italy (so they claim) in Savona in the heart of the Ligurian Riviera.

Trofie, or trofiette, are thin strings of pasta, about one to two inches long, twisted into a corkscrew shape. They are generally made with durum wheat flour, but they can also be made from all-purpose flour. Trofie are frequently called Ligurian gnocchi.

This being the heart of wonderful fresh basil season, it was a perfect time to have the trofie and pesto, a marriage made in Ligurian heaven. Here is the recipe for a simple trofie and pesto dish, which takes almost no time to make.

Some recipes have made the making of pesto time consuming and difficult, by over-working the chopping of the fresh basil. No need. A blender, which is what most Italy uses now, works perfectly. Nothing lost in taste.

for the pesto sauce:

  • two cups fresh basil leaves

  • one-half cup olive oil

  • three cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced

  • two tablespoons pine nuts

  • salt (a teaspoon or to taste)

  • one-half cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • two tablespoons freshly grated pecorino, Romano or Tuscano (or whatever)

  • two tablespoons butter

for the pasta

  • one pound trofie, durum wheat preferred but go with what you can get

Using a blender (pesto was traditionally made in a mortar and pestle, hence the name), put in the basil and garlic and mix for a few seconds. Add the pine nuts and olive oil and salt, and blend at a high speed until the sauce approaches creamy (not too creamy, however, as a little roughness in the texture is wonderful).

When the blending is completed, transfer the sauce into a mixing bowl and stir in the two cheeses. Presto, done!

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water (4-5 quarts), until it is al dente. Stir regularly while cooking.

Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid. Drain and toss with the pesto sauce. Add the butter and a tablespoon or two from the reserved liquid to assist in the tossing and mixing.