This pesto potato salad with green beans is a delightful side dish for your barbecue nights. Sweet baby potatoes are served with green beans, pine nuts and pecorino flakes all tossed in a delicious pesto dressing. All the flavours of basil pesto come together in this fantastic baby potato salad. Perfect in the spring and summer when new potatoes are in season.
Basil pesto is the inspiration behind this pesto potato salad. The classic ingredients to basil pesto are all there: fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, pecorino cheese. Instead of blitzing them all together, they become part of the salad. Only the olive oil and basil leaves are combined to make a dressing. The pecorino and pine nuts feature as actual salad ingredients.
The stars of the salad are obviously the potatoes, and I chose to use baby potatoes. They have a soft skin – I like to leave it on – and a sweet quality thanks to the fact that the sugar has not fully developed into starch yet. Green beans are just the perfect sidekick. Did you know that both potatoes and green beans are featured in original pasta al pesto in Liguria – the region in Italy they come from.
Potatoes and green beans with pesto
Basil pesto comes from the beautiful Italian Riviera. The region is called Liguria, and the region’s capital is the city of Genoa. Liguria has its traditional pasta shape known as trofie, and the most common way to serve trofie is obviously with pesto. Real trofie alla genovese is not just a simple plate of pasta with basil pesto sauce. Two more ingredients are part of the recipe.
In trofie alla genovese cubed potatoes and green beans are cooked in the pasta water. In fact, fresh pasta only takes a handful of minutes to cook, so the vegetables are actually added to the water first. The presence of the potatoes makes the pasta water extra rich in starch. Pesto is usually cut with some of the pasta cooking water, and this makes it particularly creamy. So the addition of green beans to this pesto potato salad is not casual but actually inspired by the real deal.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Potatoes – choose baby (new) potatoes if available, they’re great in salads!
- Green beans – fresh if possible, otherwise you can use frozen.
- Fresh basil leaves – the key flavour in this recipe, must be fresh.
- Olive oil – best if extra virgin, this is the one ingredient you really want to splurge on.
- Pine nuts – this is the original element in Ligurian pesto, but feel free to use sunflower seeds in case of allergy.
- Pecorino flakes – a beloved Italian sheep’s milk cheese, it is very salty and has a similar texture to Parmigiano. Sub with Parmigiano or Grana Padano if not available.
- Lime – to season the cooked potatoes.
Where is the garlic? Garlic is a traditional ingredient in classic basil pesto which should be quite unmissable. I personally prefer to omit it as I love this potato salad mild. But if you are a big garlic lover you can throw a small clove (or a half if particularly big) in the ingredients list. It will give the whole final product a zing.
How to make pesto potato salad
- Get ahead and cook your potatoes and green beans in advance! Drain and chill overnight.
- Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces; in this case I have quartered my baby potatoes.
- Squeeze the juice of a half lime over the potato bits to season them a little (picture below, left).
- In a blender combine the basil leaves, olive oil and salt and blend until you get a rather homogeneous basil oil (picture below, right).
- Transfer the potatoes and green beans to a bowl, pour the dressing over and gently toss.
- Top with the pine nuts and Pecorino flakes. You can reserve some basil leaves as decoration.
What to serve it with
This pesto potato salad is a fantastic companion to your summertime grilling. It goes great with grilled meat as well as grilled veggies or halloumi! I like making several bowls of various salads when we’re grilling, and make a little salad buffet. For example, to the side of this potato salad I’d have a bowl with a fruity kale salad with peaches and a slaw like this Asian coleslaw with sriracha mayo.
If you’re not grilling, you can serve this potato salad as side dish to your main course. I find it particularly nice next to this oven-baked pork loin with hazelnut sauce. Or for an indoor burger night you can serve this salad together with these delicious hamburger open sandwiches. For a vegetarian option I suggest my walnut and red cabbage empanadas!
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I hope this pesto potato salad will brighten up your spring and summer days. It is a delightful way to use baby potatoes when they’re in season. Whether it will be as a side dish to grilled meat or to a favourite main course, enjoy the fresh flavour of this salad with the lovely texture of the pine nuts and Pecorino flakes.
Let me know in the comments if you liked it and what your thoughts of this somewhat deconstructed pesto are. And don’t forget to pin this recipe for later!
Pesto potato salad with green beans
- 600 g new potatoes boiled, skin on
- 150 g green beans trimmed
- 100 ml olive oil
- 8 basil sprigs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 20 g pine nuts
- 2 tbsp Pecorino flakes
- Clean and cook the potatoes in simmering water until tender. Cooking time depends on the size of the potatoes. Drain and rinse under cold water to speed up the cooling process. This passage should take about 1 hour and can be done in advance. Store the cooked potatoes in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Cook the green beans, ends trimmed, in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- In the meantime, cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces and add them to a bowl. Squeeze the half lime and drizzle the juice over the potatoes. Add the cooled green beans to the same bowl.
- Combine the olive oil, salt and basil leaves in a jug. Blend until smooth. You can reserve a couple of leaves to use as decoration.
- Pour the dressing over the potatoes and green beans and gently toss. Top with pine nuts, Pecorino flakes and basil leaves (optional).