The Garden Grind

What do you do when your friend O. sends you this text on a Thursday?

Lets make pesto this sunday. ive got yards of basil

I’ll tell you: You agree.

You and J. meet him in the park, and he opens a plastic shopping bag for you to sniff its contents.

“It’s really spicy-smelling,” he says. He’s right. The air around the three of you remains peppery as you walk to your apartment, like the storm clouds that follow around cartoon characters.

You use photography (it’s all you have) to worship the basil a little, because O. grew it in his garden, and it arrived replete with roots and soil just like he promised.


You chop it up with some of the usual suspects — garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon zest, sea salt and pepper — and toss it with fresh tagliatelle, grape tomatoes, soppressata and slender tufts of pecorino.


That’s what you do.

Tagliatelle with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Salame
[Note: This pesto doesn’t have Parmesan in it — granted, that’s sacrilegious, but it freezes better and tastes more verdantly of homegrown basil, which were key concerns.]

1 lb. fresh tagliatelle
1/2 cup homemade pesto (see below)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup soppressata, thinly sliced
pecorino cheese, to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 8 cups salted water to a boil. Cook tagliatelle 1-2 minutes, or until done. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and toss with pesto and tomatoes, adding reserved water a tablespoon at a time for smoothness. Allow to cool for a minute or two before gently folding in the soppressata. Garnish with pecorino. Serves 3-4.

Pesto (sans Parmesan)

4 loosely packed cups basil leaves
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Either finely mince all the ingredients together by hand, a la Heidi (totally worth it), or pulse in a food processor until just combined. Makes 2 cups.

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5 Responses to The Garden Grind

  1. B says:

    N, after reading this post I have resolved that your mother, like mine, read you this book when you were a child:

    thats what you do.


  2. N says:

    She didn’t, actually, but I read it to dozens of kids when I was in high school and volunteered at the local library.

    “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” was my favorite.

  3. VegeYum says:

    Wow, it looks so fabulous. You know what, I make pesto with a mortar and pestle. It somehow tastes much better than with the blender, or even chopping finely. I think it has something to do with eliminating metal from the process, and the oils that are released through crushing rather than chopping.

    Just throw everything except the oil and cheese into the mortar, including the tiniest pinch of salt to assist the grinding. It reduces to pesto really quickly. Near the end, add the grated cheese. When finished, stir in enough oil to give the consistency you are after. Voila! Very Special Pesto.

    Gee, I love food!

  4. Now that’s a good friend!

  5. Liz says:

    Wow. Truly amazing.

    I need a friend like that!


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