Tag Archives: Pasta

Backyard pesto and hand cut pasta

25 Mar

Every year on the first day of school, my brother, my dog, and I posed for the camera. Early in the morning before heading to the bus stop, we went outside with our backpacks already on, held up our fingers to demonstrate the grade we were each entering (4 fingers = 4th grade…the dog refrained from this part), and smiled as my parents took our picture to commemorate the day. To me, the photo signified the beginning of a new year, and I remember the pride we took in the outfits we had chosen for that first day and the worry we felt about the unknowns of our new teachers and routines.Backyard pesto

This annual photo op always took place in the backyard in front of our small family garden. Usually by September, the bed was in full swing – tomato plants too heavy for their own height, zinnias reaching higher and higher for the sun, and a jungle of basil fending off the native army of mint. While simple, it reliably produced ingredients for our summer cooking needs.

My favorite warm weather food was my mom’s pesto. I remember smelling the basil as I rode my bike up our driveway on my way home from our local swim club and running into the kitchen to see the pesto in the making. My mom’s version is creamier, nuttier, and more garlicky than the traditional Italian type. With only a few ingredients and 2 steps (blend, add oil), it was ready in a snap. The most difficult part was knowing how much oil to add; the sole instruction was to slowly add the oil to the spinning food processor until the pesto looked ‘right,’ which I learned meant smooth, not too stiff, and not too runny. Continue reading

Butternut squash and broccoli rabe lasagna with a zesty kick

14 Mar

As a little tyke, my brother was a strict “breaditarian” (a self-imposed title). He, like many kids, dogmatically insisted that he only ate white foods; his menu of acceptable meals included bread, pasta, rice, chicken fingers, and a limited set of other items. Hot dogs were the only apparent exception to this rule.*Zesty cheese and delicious squash

With such a narrow list of food likes, the options for eating out were slim. On the rare night that my parents did not muster the energy to cook or when my brother and I were alone with my dad and he didn’t whip up his famous breakfast for dinner special, we would hop in the car and head down the road to The Italian Village.

We did not go expecting fine dining, though as kids we did not distinguish between good and bad pasta anyway. We loved the excitement of being out for dinner, the predictability of the menu that was full of things we knew we liked, and the paper place mats waiting to be turned into works of art with the complementary crayons provided.Spicy broccoli rabe

For my part, the tempting voice of lasagna always called out to me, but I found I liked the idea of it more than the reality. In my mind, lasagna should be a comforting bite of al dente pasta, creamy cheese, and flavorful sauce.

I occasionally took the leap and ordered The Italian Village’s version, but more often than not I was disappointed with the goopy mess of floppy noodles, stringy cheese, and bland sauce. As a result, I usually defaulted to the boring choice of ravioli with marinara sauce. Continue reading

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