Pâtes au Pistou

Pasta with Basil & Garlic Sauce

The Giusti family recipe is a loosely guarded secret (and a fairly loose recipe, depending on the basil and garlic season); careful quizzing of regular customers produced this almost identical artery-hardening recipe mixture, not exactly classic, but certainly irresistible (recipe on following page).


  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 big bunch fresh basil, cleaned & dried
  • 4-5 tbsp/60-75 ml freshly grated parmesan
  • 3-4 tbsp/45-60 ml good olive oil
  • 12 oz/350 g thin flat pasta
  • 2 tbsp/30 ml crème fraîche (or double/heavy cream)
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml butter
  • salt & pepper


Pound the garlic until smooth in a mortar, then add the basil leaves and crush them into the garlic until they form a paste. Beat the cheese in with a fork and begin to add the olive oil drop by drop, as you would for mayonnaise or aïoli. In plenty of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until just firm. Drain well and toss it in a warmed bowl with cream & butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in the piston and serve immediately.

*Nice’s ‘piston’ originated in Genoa as ‘pesto’ sauce, made of garlic, butter, cheese, basil and pine nuts. Deeper into Provence tomatoes take the place of cheese and butter to give a cleaner, more fragrant taste.