Trofie al Pesto: The Pesto Pasta You Need

For all the travel you’ll do this summer, or at least dream of, this trofie al pesto recipe takes you right to Portofino. You never forget your first taste of trofie, a special pasta that finds its home on the Ligurian coast. You’re dunzo when it’s served with that Genovese pesto and Mediterranean mussels. This is the recipe of the summer that’s served piping hot, room temperature or as a pasta salad. No matter how it’s served, pesto pasta is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Italian coastline with yachts in the bay.

I first had my taste of real pesto pasta 12 years ago in Portofino. I stayed at the Belmond’s Splendido, and words still don’t describe this beautiful part of Italy. Located on the stunning Ligurian coast, not far from Cinque Terre, the winding roads all eventually lead to Portofino. The Italian Riviera is one part of the world where you have views for days. Everyone should have the chance once in their lifetime to take in the sight of Portofino from Splendido. It’s a bucket list experience.

The Secret to Trofie al Pesto

This trofie al pesto recipe is as straight forward as they come. 15 minutes and this pasta dish is ready to serve. Or if you’re adding seafood to the dish, less than 30 minutes will do. The key to this recipe is the bright green of the basil pesto and the emulsified creaminess of the sauce with the pasta. There’s no cream though in this recipe, and if you insisted, you could make the pesto vegan. The secret is just the right amount of pasta water from the trofie combined with the sauce right before you serve it. You can also add in seafood like sous-vide shrimp, crab meat or Mediterranean mussels out of their shell, which makes the dish a proper full balanced meal.

Serves 6 guests as a pesto pasta course, 4 guests as a main.

Pesto and basil leaves on a cutting board.

Trofie al Pesto Ingredients

For the Pesto Sauce

4 cups of fresh basil leaves, removed from the stems
2 cups of ice
1/2 cup fresh finely grated parmesan cheese
3 roasted garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de Sel or Maldon sea salt, to taste

For the Trofie

1 lb uncooked trofie pasta (fresh pasta is best but dry will do too)
Salted water

Special Equipment

A food processor

Trofie al Pesto served on a plate.


About 30 minutes before you start, place your food processor with the blade in the refrigerator. 10 minutes prior to making the pasta, place your basil in a bowl with ice. This step is the secret that will help you get that beautiful green pesto color.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add all the trofie to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving about 2 cups of the cooking water.

A jar of pesto.

While the pasta is boiling, add all your pesto ingredients to the food processor, and blend on medium. Add salt to taste. Your homemade pesto should be a thickened paste and a bright green color. Set aside until the pasta is ready.

In the clean pasta pot, add in the cooked trofie and the pesto. Gently mix well. Add the pasta water in 1/2 cup increments until the sauce is emulsified. You can add a little more water than you need, as the pasta will soak it up by the time you serve. The key is to have the trofie set with enough sauce that it’s not soupy, but also not dry. Add in your optional seafood last with a gentle stir. Serve immediately. Alternatively you can make this ahead of time and serve it room temperature at a BBQ or even cold, as a pasta salad. This trofie al pesto dish is delicious any which way.

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