My flatmate is having a birthday dinner tonight, and the flat is festooned with banners, balloons: it looks to be a lovely evening. A friend is back from Tanzania and asked to come over to do laundry (he is in a hotel) last night, so while the laundry was being done he helped with the decor, and made dinner. Very much appreciated. He had planned to make pasta alla Genovese (pasta with potatoes, pesto and green beans) but had had not had time to shop. But we had all the ingredients! Only Ghanaian sweet potatoes, but that worked out just fine too.
I had made this a couple months ago, and was curious to see if our friend cooked it all in one pot. It’s all about the timing and how finely the vegetables are cut. Ideally the order is diced potato, then pasta, then green beans, but I rarely get the timing quite right. Here is a Nigella recipe explaining it well, she even makes the pesto. Here’s the BBC Good Food version. This is a very forgiving dish, and very satisfying.
Pasta alla Genovese
500 grams potatoes (peeled and diced in finger-thick pieces)
500 grams pasta of your choice
200 grams fine green beans (trimmed and cut in half)
160-200 grammes pesto
a little starchy cooking water
grated cheese to serve (parmesan or grana padano)
Bring a big pot of water to the boil, add salt (more than a pinch, less than a handful: q.b. as Italians say, quanto bisogno or as much as you need.) You want the pasta, beans and potatoes all to be done at the same time, which is why I sometimes do this in two pots (even three, which is terrible). Look at the pasta cooking time and estimate as well as you can. If you feel brave, the all in one pot: diced potatoes first, then pasta, then green beans 4-5 minutes before the end. Drain, stir pesto through, and with a cooking water if it looks dry at all, and serve. With a little grated cheese if you like, and a little more salt pepper for me.
Notes: Top one is the one I cooked, this one is cooked by my friend. Both very nice! It should be linguine or spaghetti, or trofie, but I have had several versions and this is the pasta that was on hand. The first time I had this, an Italian friend made it with penne, with beans cut same length as the pasta. I use a little extra pesto as I usually make extra for my packed lunch the next day.
It is rainy season in Ghana and not too hot, but humid: I find mildew on cupboard doors, lunch bags, oven mitts, suitcases….. I wipe it off with vinegar and hope for the best.
Not all roadside gutters are cleared out well, which increases risk of flooding. We live in a higher area, with no flooding danger. I am enjoying the cooler weather though, and the occasional walk home. I am also counting down to holidays in Italy, which will be nice (despite heatwave there at present). The Roman papers are moaning about the “caldo africano” but we are used to worse in West Africa, and I am really looking forward to some days of Italian summer. And Italian summer food!