Ligurian Pesto with Spaghetti. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Ligurian Pesto with Spaghetti. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Ligurian Pesto with Spaghetti

Recipe by Gianni Franzi in Vernazza, Italy, from the Bon Appétit website.

Audrey Hepburn once said: “Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.”

While chocolate cake certainly does do a lot for a lot of people, a meal that never fails to satisfy my appetite is the always delizioso combination of pesto with spaghetti. Ligurian Pesto with Spaghetti is a dish made with basil leaves, pine nuts and spaghetti that tempts taste buds all the way from Vernazza, a town in northwestern Italy.

The only moment more satisfying than seeing that bright green pesto resting delicately among the olive oil-drizzled spaghetti is the moment when you finally fork that fresh Ligurian Pesto with Spaghetti onto your eagerly awaiting taste buds. Buon appetito!


Servings: 4-6.

Note: This recipe makes more pesto than you’ll need. Serve the extra with vegetables or fish, or spread it on sandwiches.

  • Kosher salt
  • 10 cups (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves (about 2 bunches)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan plus more
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pound spaghetti


1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Set a colander in a large bowl of ice water (this will make it easier to strain the basil later). Working in batches, blanch basil for 10 seconds. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer basil to colander in ice water; let cool completely. Set aside 1/2 cup blanching water. Reserve pot with blanching water.

2. Drain basil by lifting colander from ice water. Using your hands, squeeze excess water from basil; transfer basil to paper towels. (You should have about 1/2 cup.)

3. Place blanched basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, adding blanching water by tablespoonfuls to thin if needed, and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Process until a smooth, thick purée forms, about 1 minute.

4. Transfer basil mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup oil. Season to taste with salt.

5. Return water in pot to a boil; add more salt. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Spoon 1/2 cup pesto and 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid into a large bowl. Using tongs, transfer spaghetti to bowl and toss vigorously, drizzling with oil and adding more pesto and cheese as you continue to toss, until spaghetti is glossy and well coated with sauce. Season with salt. Divide among bowls; sprinkle with cheese.​

— By Benazir Wehelie, Copy Chief

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Copy Chief | Benazir Wehelie is a College senior originally from Johannesburg, South Africa working toward a film studies degree. She transferred to Emory University her sophomore year and joined The Emory Wheel as assistant copy chief. Having lived in South Africa, Monaco and the United States, Benazir is always ready to travel and experience different areas of the world.