ligurian pesto with spaghetti

 twist me up with some basil and pine nuts ::::


“Noonles, Mommy! Noonles!” Grub and I are discussing what to have for dinner. At 21-months-old, he has an impressive vocabulary. “Mommy shoes,” he points out as we get ready to leave the house. “Be-be!” He shows me Peach’s special security blanket, once-white-now-gray and well-loved. He looks at the electrical outlet, turns, and looks at me firmly shaking his finger, “No, no.” He pokes his fingers dangerously close to my eye stating with his ever-present smile, “Eye,” then “Other eye!” He moves around my face with sharp fingernails. Cheek. Ear. Other Ear. Mouth.”  And the impressively well-enunciated “Eyebrow!”



And so we venture off to find noodles and name other body parts. “Belly.” Grub’s bellybutton makes an appearance numerous times.

I drop dried spaghetti all over the floor. “Foot.”

Grub pulls Peach’s hair, she screams, and he states, “Hair.”

Grub points to the bend in his arm and says “Elmo!”

“Almost,” I correct him. “This is an elbow, ” I point to my elbow. I point to the scruffy puppet doll on the floor. “That’s  Elmo.”

Grub smiles again and pokes at his mouth. “Teef.”

The amazing thing about this exchange is not only the vocabulary but also that I could also focus on preparing basil pesto at the same time we were having this conversation. It’s that easy. Parboil basil and cold shock during the belly discussion. Dry off basil and mix with Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in food processor over the  foot and hair identification. Drizzle in olive oil over the Elmo/elbow confusion. Bring blanching water back to boil and cook spaghetti while examining our mouths and teeth.



Grub looks up, purses his lips, and reaches for me. Unsolicited kisses and hugs are the best, without needing to say  “kiss” or “hug.”


ligurian pesto with spaghetti
Recipe type: pasta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 8 ounces (227 g) fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • salt
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Set a colander in a large bowl of ice water (to make it easier to strain the basil later).
  2. Working in batches blanch basil for 10 seconds. (I used my tongs to hold a tuft of basil and stems, dipped it in the water for 10 seconds, then immediately transferred to colander in ice water. Allow to cool completely. Set aside ½ cup blanching water and KEEP THE OTHER BLANCHING WATER IN THE POT.
  3. Drain basil by lifting colander from ice water. Squeeze excess water from basil and transfer to paper towels to dry.
  4. Place blanched basil, 1 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, adding blanching water by tablespoonfuls to thin if needed. Stop occasionally to scrape down sides. Process until a smooth, thick puree forms, about 1 minute.
  5. Transfer basil mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in ½ cup olive oil (or gently pulse in the food processor, if you haven't moved the basil mixture into the medium bowl yet). Season to taste with salt
  6. Return blanching water in pot to a boil; add more salt. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
  7. I used half of the prepared pesto for 1 pound of spaghetti, and froze the other half. When mixing the pesto with the spaghetti, toss vigorously and drizzle with olive oil. Season with more salt, if needed. Sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Enjoy with your loquacious noodle-lovers.


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