One-Pot Ligurian Pesto Pasta with Potatoes and Asparagus.
You read right: potatoes and pasta. It’s a northern Italian thing that can be your thing, too. Add some fresh asparagus for colour and nutrition, plus freshly-made wild garlic – or wild leek – pesto to make it sing. Tastes great cold, too.
This is a barely tweaked take on a traditional Ligurian recipe that revels in its double-carb status. Potatoes and pasta.
Food. Of. The. Gods.
If I tell you that Andrew was excited to eat this, that would be a huge understatement. He was bloody ecstatic. For us, this recipe served one. Seriously. I had to rustle up a smoked mackerel salad for myself.
To get him off the hook with you, I must add that he is training super-hard for the London marathon on behalf of the fantastic cancer support charity that we both work for**. It is in less than two weeks’ time, and he is clocking up some serious mileage. So, he needs those carbs. I, however, need them not so much. I was okay with just having a few bites. Basically enough of a taste to want to make it again three days later, with added chard and peas this outing. I was ecstatic, too!
What’s in this Ligurian Pesto Pasta with Potatoes and Asparagus?
Um, all of the above! Fresh pesto, quartered new potatoes, wholemeal pasta shapes (I used cavatappi here), fresh asparagus cut into small rounds, optional Italian hard cheese. But the thing about the pesto is that it is homemade with wild garlic (or wild leeks as shown here; very similar to wild garlic, but milder).
About the all-important pesto
If you don’t live in an area where wild garlic grows – ie somewhere with consistently warm weather – just make a traditional basil one with the same measurements. Or, grab a tub of fresh pesto from the chiller cabinet at your favourite store.
Fresh is MILES better than even the best jarred, ambient shelf stuff. But honestly, I shouldn’t be a snob about it as I always have a jar of Sacla’ waiting for its time to shine. If using jarred, crush in a bit more garlic and add a spritz of lemon to brighten it up.
Never made your own pesto? Well, you are in for a treat. Having a food processor or mini chopper type thing makes it super easy. But using a pestle and mortar is traditional, and some people think it tastes better made this way.
Wild garlic nous
Wild garlic and wild leeks (ransoms) can sometimes be picked up at a farmer’s market. But they are mega delicate, so you won’t find them in a regular supermarket. What you see in this post are wild leeks, which are very similar, but less pungent. This article on the Countryfile TV show website gives a fairly comprehensive overview of wild garlic. Just beware that wild garlic does have one poisonous look alike that often grows in the same area. Toxic-beauty lily of the valley has slender leaves and does not smell of garlic.
Here is my ancient Instagram post that helps you identify wild garlic. Read the comments, too. Identification is easy once the flowers on all of these plants have bloomed. Until then, the pungent smell is your big clue.
For newbie foragers, I recommend Richard Mabey’s Food for Free (affiliate link) and The Forager’s Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests (affiliate link).
So, this is a one-pot recipe. Really?
Okay, the pesto is made separately in a food processor, or mortar and pestle. But the actual cooked element is truly one-pot. You are just adding pasta and potatoes to a pot of boiling water. Then you add the asparagus at the last gasp, so that all are just cooked, rather than mushy in any way. While the carbs are doing their thang, you are making the pesto – which takes about 1 minute. You will be sitting down to your pasta pesto with potatoes in less than 30 minutes. How does that sound?
This is how we make it
Wild garlic nutrition
Cultivated garlic is widely known for being anti just about everything bad for us – it is antibacterial, antibimicrobial and antiviral. It also contains superb amounts of vitamins A and C, plus calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Studies show that it may help reduce blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Although all types of garlic have these benefits, wild garlic – and wild leeks – is thought to be even more effective at lowering blood pressure. Here’s an article in The Guardian that tells us more – plus a gorgeous-sounding recipe.
While we are deep in wild garlic season, why not try one of these wild garlic recipes on Food To Glow?
Cheesy Wild Garlic Cornbread (one of my favourite bread recipes)
Whether on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or of course here on the blog, I love to see what you do with my recipes, and I welcome your comments, star ratings, tweaks and suggestions on this One-Pot Ligurian Pesto Pasta with Potatoes and Asparagus, and any of my other 600+ recipes.
Also, if you’ve made/intend to make this recipe, please do consider rating it as it will make this recipe more visible on search engines. To do so, click the appropriate star underneath the small photo on the recipe card, below. Thank you!**
** PS If you wish to donate to my husband Andrew’s London Marathon effort to raise money for the vital emotional and practical work that Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres provide, here is the justgiving link. Thank you so much. 🙂 Every penny raised goes directly to supporting those with cancer and their loved ones. I run the nutrition workshops, and provide catering and teaching support on some of the other courses, too.
One-Pan Pesto Pasta Liguria with Potatoes and Asparagus
You read right: potato and pasta. It's a northern Italian thing that can be your thing, too. Add some fresh spring vegetables for colour and nutrition, plus freshly-made wild garlic - or wild leek - pesto to make it sing. Tastes great cold, too.
- 100 g new potatoes quartered
- 175 g trofie pasta or other shaped pasta
- 10 asparagus spears trimmed and quartered
- 2 tbsp Italian hard cheese grated, for topping
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 50 g wild garlic or wild leeks; washed
- 40 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 20 g pine nuts toasted; or pumpkin seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 clove black/fermented garlic peeled - optional (adds a sweetness and umami)
- 25 g Italian hard cheese grated
In a large pan bring water to the boil - salted if you wish - and add the pasta and potatoes. Let come to the boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the wild garlic, or wild leeks and blanch in hot water for 10 seconds. This helps keep the bright green colour and zaps any nasties that might be on the leaves. Squeeze the blanched leaves in a tea towel and add it to a mini food chopper/food processor.
Add also to the mini food processor bowl the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic(s), and a pinch of salt and pepper. You will need to stop once to push the bits that are stuck to the side back down near the blade. Blend until smooth or mostly smooth. Remove the blade and stir in the cheese.
After 10 minutes, add the chopped asparagus to the boiling potatoes and pasta and let cook for three minutes. Test a potato and the pasta to make sure they are just cooked - al dente for the pasta and only just cooked for the potatoes is best, imo. Drain, saving a little of the water to loosen the final dish if needed. I also save the rest to use in soup the next day.
Tip the cooked ingredients back into the pan and stir in the pesto, coating well and adding more liquid if needed. Immediately divide between two warmed bowls and top with more cheese and extra black pepper. I also think a squeeze of juicy lemon brings it all together and balances the inherent richness of this dish.
Using green beans is more traditional, so use those - even frozen ones - if you wish. Or both! Peas, spinach or chard are great to add in or use instead.
This recipe is surprisingly good cold, so take any leftovers to work and avoid the queue for the microwave.
Use whatever pasta you like. Trofie is the most common shape but I've used cavatappi here and it was fab. Shaped pasta tends to work better than spaghetti, but use that spaghetti if you wish. This might keep it cheaper too.
RIPE FOR PINNING!