How beautiful is this disc-shaped pasta? It’s called croxetti, and the pieces resemble thin silver dollars; they’re stamped with lovely designs including a coat of arms and a sheaf of wheat. Croxetti is local to Liguria, the Italian coastal province that lies along the Ligurian Sea (sort of where the “cuff” of Italy’s “boot” meets France). Liguria is also home to Genoa, which is famous for pesto. So it’s not surprising that croxetti is commonly prepared with that basil-y concoction.
A bag of these semolina beauties jumped into my hands when Rob and I visited the Cinque Terre (also part of Liguria) during our recent Italian vacation. The five towns of the Cinque Terre—(from north to south) Monterossa, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore—are heartbreakingly scenic. It’s impossible to imagine how these towns were carved into steep hillsides in the 11th century. Rugged pathways lead among them (though three of the four paths are closed after significant flooding and mudslides hit the area in 2011); these days most tourists hop the train among the towns. Rob and I hoofed it from Corniglia to Vernazza (a challenging almost 2-hour hike) and rewarded ourselves with giant beers.
The label on my bag of croxetti included a recipe that I immediately recognized, though it was in Italian. This simple pasta recipe with potatoes, green beans and pesto is among my standbys. I knew it was a Ligurian favorite and now I have the “correct” pasta to make it with.
You wouldn’t think of adding potatoes to pasta, but the combo is starchy-delicious. Green beans and pesto add flavor, color and texture. This recipe for pasta with potatoes and green beans is comfort food at its easiest. You don’t have to use croxetti; I’ve often made the recipe with penne or farfalle. Or you could take it a step further and make your own easy pasta.
PASTA WITH POTATOES, GREEN BEANS AND PESTO RECIPE
3–4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, in 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 heaping cup)
2 large handfuls slender green beans (if using frozen beans, thaw them slightly)
8 ounces dry pasta
2 Tbsp. prepared pesto
1 cup (loosely packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a large pot of well-salted water (taste it; it should be as salty as the sea) to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 4 minutes. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions—adding the green beans to the pot when you have 2 minutes of cooking time remaining. Cook until the pasta is al dente, the potatoes tender and the beans still crisp. Drain the pasta and vegetables, retaining 1/2 cup of cooking water. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot and stir in the pesto; add a bit of liquid if needed to create a thin sauce. Stir in the Parmesan and season to taste with salt and freshly grated pepper. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.