Luca's Trenette Al Pesto Pasta

Luca's trenette al pesto recipe

Thanks to being the most streamed movie of 2021, Disney-Pixar's smash hit Luca has done more to introduce children to trenette al pesto than anything before.

This legendary Ligurian dish (trenette al pesto con fagiolini e patate) makes no fewer than four guest appearances in this sweet, coming-of-age animation, most famously when Luca and his pal Alberto are introduced to it for the very first time.

At first slightly skeptical and intimidated, the protagonists soon discover the game-changing joys of trenette al pesto.

Trenette al pesto scene from Luca

The "Trenette" part of the name refers to the type of pasta used. This flat, narrow shape is a joy to eat but hard to track down in the UK. Unless you're prepared to import some, the solution is either to make it yourself or settle for the next best thing: linguine or fettuccine.

Imported trenette pasta from Liguria, Italy

Traditionally, trenette is served with a pesto that is as close as possible to the original recipe, but we've tried it with all kinds of pesto, and think it works just as well with sauces that get their principle flavour from tomato, chilli, coriander, and many more.

The dish is rather unusual due to the pairing of pasta and potatoes, which at first glance seems like carbohydrate overload. To be honest, it probably is, but despite our initial reservations, it turns out to be a combination that, for some baffling reason, does work.

Luca's Trennete Al Pesto vs Reality

If all those carbs are making you feel guilty, the inclusion of green beans provides a nice textural contrast and means you can rest just a little bit easier knowing you’ve had at least one of your five-a-day.

Recommended equipment
Digital kitchen scales

Trenette pasta close-up

Pro tip
The secret to making the very best trenette al pesto, just like in Luca, is to incorporate a little of the starchy water that the pasta and potatoes are boiled in.

Luca pasta recipe for two

Trenette pasta 150g
Potatoes 150g
Green beans 100g
Pesto 100g
Parmesan as needed
Seasoning to taste
Fresh herbs for garnish

Start by peeling the potatoes (any variety will do, but we reckon if Luca had ever tried fingerling potatoes, he’d agree with us that this wonderfully nutty variety works perfectly in this dish). Chop into equal-sized cubes, about the size of a die.

Top, tail, and halve the green beans and set aside.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and add the pasta and potatoes.

Simmer for 5 minutes, and then add the beans. Continue simmering until the pasta is al dente and the potatoes are tender and creamy, about another 6-7 minutes.

Strain through a colander, but reserve about a tablespoon of the starchy pasta water.

Stir through the pesto (it will warm in the residual heat, so there’s no need to heat it), and then stir through the starchy water that everything cooked in. This will turn your creation from a very acceptable weeknight dinner into a wonderfully glossy dish that would sit comfortably in a fine-dining restaurant.

Enjoy with lashings of Parmesan, some fresh herbs for garnish, and maybe Luca streaming in the background.