This pesto pasta with potatoes is inspired by the traditional pesto pasta recipe from Liguria, the home region of basil pesto. Diced potatoes are cooked together with the pasta and together tossed with pesto. The addition of potatoes gives this dish an unexpected texture and makes the pesto extra creamy.
The original pesto pasta from Liguria should feature both potatoes and green beans. I decided to make a simplified version, given also the fact that green beans are not in season at the moment but potatoes are available year round. For the potato and green bean combo check out my pesto potato salad with green beans.
Potatoes together with pasta may sound like quite an odd thing, but this combination really works great together. This dish is relatively easy to prepare, you only need to be careful when cooking the potatoes and the pasta as they need to go into the same cooking water at two different times. This is why I prefer a quick-cooking pasta like spaghettini. See recipe tips below.
The main ingredient in this recipe is obviously the pesto. You can use store-bought or make it at home. Here’s my small batch basil pesto recipe that yields just enough to make this pasta dish.
Please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for detailed quantities.
How to make pesto pasta with potatoes
- Peel and cut the potatoes into a small dice (about 1 cm). Bring a pot of water to a boil then salt and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes 8 minutes, or until they feel soft when pierced and almost cooked through. Type of potato and size of dice may require a slightly longer or shorter time. Add the pasta and cook together with the potatoes following the package instructions (spaghetti n.3 take 5 minutes).
- As the pasta is cooking, stir 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water into the pesto. Cutting the pesto with pasta cooking water makes it creamy and it also raises its temperature so you will not be adding it cold.
- When the time is up, drain the pasta together with the potatoes and place back into the same pot. Pour in the pesto and stir to distribute being careful not to mash the potatoes. Add a generous pouring of olive oil to ease the process.
For this recipe I have used spaghetti n.3 which are thinner than standard spaghetti n.5. In order to prevent the potatoes from overcooking and falling apart it can be helpful to use a pasta that does not require a long cooking time. Another good idea is fresh pasta, which generally takes less than 5 minutes. If you want something even more exclusive try trofie which is the traditional pasta shape from Liguria.
If you prefer a thicker type of pasta that requires 10 minutes of cooking time you need to factor in that the pasta needs to be added to the water when the potatoes are halfway done. For a traditional Ligurian choice I recommend linguine or trenette both excellent with pesto.
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If you enjoyed this recipe please leave a comment below. Planning to try your hand at pesto pasta with potatoes another time? Pin the recipe to Pinterest!
Pesto Pasta with Potatoes
A Ligurian recipe to pesto pasta with potatoes. The potatoes make this dish even creamier, adding unexpected texture to this big Italian classic.
- 350 g spaghetti n.3
- 300 g potatoes 2-3 potatoes
- 150 g basil pesto
- 4 tbsp parmesan grated
- drizzle olive oil
- salt to taste
Peel and cut the potatoes into a small dice (about 1 cm). Bring a pot of water to a boil then salt and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes about 8 minutes or until soft when pierced and almost cooked through.
Add the pasta and cook together with the potatoes following the package instructions (spaghetti n.3 take 5 minutes).
Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water into the pesto - this makes it creamy and raises its temperature so you will not be adding it cold.
Drain the cooked pasta together with the potatoes and place back into the same pot. Pour in the pesto and stir to distribute being careful not to mash the potatoes. Add a generous pouring of olive oil to ease the process. Serve and top with grated parmesan.
- If the final product is too dry feel free to add even more olive oil and parmesan. I generally have my pasta "drier" when I make it with pesto compared to other tomato or cream based sauces, but you should suit your taste. You can also only use 300 g pasta instead of 350, but then you will feed 3 instead of 4.
- Different types of potatoes and variation in dice size can cause different cooking times than stated above. Before adding the pasta, the potatoes need to be half-done so they manage to cook through as the pasta cooks.
Please notice that the nutritional information provided is made by an online calculator and only meant to be used as a guideline.