Follow your bliss: Pasta al pesto & friends
On Sunday I woke up feeling uncomfortable with my body. Yes, it does still happen.
All wrapped in my robes I walked to the kitchen and, on the way, looked at the garden as I do every morning before making coffee; I acknowledge the beauty I am surrounded with, and I breathe in gratitude.
I walked to the kitchen still feeling uncomfortable with my body. Actually, I was about to feel guilty for the pizza I had the night before at my favorite Italian restaurant, Da Pasquale, with our friends Tony and Christy, but as I put the coffee machine on the stove I walked back to the garden and paused again.
Did I really want to turn that beautiful evening with my friends into a guilty memory?
I answered in my head as I stared at my growing herb garden. The basil had overgrown; its flowers made the bees happy, but I had to cut them for the plant to keep growing healthily.
But wait, I will talk about aromatic herbs next time. Today I want to talk about how I went from a state of discomfort to feeling at ease, with my body, yes, but also with eating in public.
As I looked at the overgrown basil in the garden I got reminded of the delicious pesto alla genovese that my maternal grandmother used to make with fresh basil and handpicked pine nuts from Liguria, where she vacationed every month of June until a few years before she passed. I miss my grandmother, and I miss her cooking.
“What if I cook something easy, tasty and light and you guys come over for dinner in the garden?”
I texted my friend Kelly.
In fact, we had a dinner date planned for the night with our husbands, and we were supposed to try the restaurant Sotto. She loved the idea, and I loved how my mood had begun to shift, and that I was no longer thinking about my body.
As the day moved forward, as I shopped for plants at the local nursery, and as I made fresh pasta for dinner, I got to thinking about the joy I am able to freely experience, today, when I eat with my friends, when I eat with healthy pleasure and curiosity, and when I listen to what my body needs. For half my life food was an enemy, a sin, a secret, a sign of weakness.
On Saturday, the day before our dinner with Kelly and Brandon, her husband, I watched the first episode of Chef’s Table, with guest chef Massimo Bottura. When I heard the story of how he first adventured into the world of cooking I felt a knot in my throat; I felt alive.
I was at the gym, stretching, at the end of my workout, and the emotion I felt was so powerful that I had to leave the gym and call my husband from the car.
“I came to America to discover Italian food. I suffered half my life to find my bliss in what I believed my enemy,” I also tweeted. In fact, I had run away from my roots and from my passion for traditions and food, only to discover them again when open to receive the gift they held for me.
What I meant in those 140 characters was that when I cook, when I write about it, when I share with you, and when I eat my food with those I love I feel just right. Feeling right in space and time is so powerful that my heart seems to not be able to hold it, at times. The joy I experience when I do what I was born to do brings me to tears and to laughter, to serenity and inspiration, to energy, hard work, and success.
It’s difficult to explain what being in the right place feels like. I believe that some feelings cannot be translated into words other than through a list of their ingredients: love, faith, and willingness to take on the journey.
Enjoy my fresh, handmade tagliatelle with my grandmother’s basil pesto alla genovese.
For the pasta I followed Giada De Laurentis’ recipe, that you can find here:
Pesto alla genovese:
Time: 35/40 minutes
- 100 gr. Fresh basil
- 40 gr. Pine nuts
- 100 gr. Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
- 20 gr. Pecorino cheese, possibly from Sardinia (pecorino sardo)
- 100 gr. Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 gr Coarse see salt
- 1 Sliver of garlic
I used a marble mortar, but I then found out from my mother that my grandmother used a food processor. That said, the result I got with a combination of mortar and hard work was unbeatable.
In the mortar, put salt and the sliver of garlic. Now, with a pestle, start crushing and mixing the basil leaves with a powerful yet harmonic movement, in order to preserve their color and essence. Once all your basil leaves are soft, and releasing their essential oil, slowly add the grated cheese, the pine nuts, and the olive oil. Keep crushing until smooth.
Don’t worry if some of the pine nuts are still whole. This is a homemade pesto, and their crunchiness will simply add texture to the dish.
Boil your fresh tagliatelle in salted water for approximately 1 minute, and never more than 2. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly, and you still want it al dente. Keep aside 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water.
Drain the pasta and season with your flavorful pesto and the cooking water previously set aside. Stir and serve immediately.