Growing up on an island in Alaska before the popularity of the Food Network meant my window in the culinary world was very limited. The most exotic foods that I remember eating as a kid were lumpia and “meat-on-a-stick” (likely a version on bulgogi) that some of the Filipino families would sell each summer at the annual Crab Festival.
I had certainly never heard of pesto and the first time I was confronted with it while visiting Italian relatives in Vancouver, BC, I was very suspicious. It didn’t seem right to coat pasta in anything besides the familiar red of marinara.
But once I tasted the garlicky herbaceous green sauce, I was sold. After that moment, one of my all-time favorite dinners as a teenager became linguine tossed with broccoli and pesto. I would get so excited when my mom would make it that I would hoard the leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. I still do this actually, old habits die hard.
As an adult, I’ve learned all the different variations one can do with pesto. I’ve made it with broccoli, watercress and arugula, and garlic scapes — all with equally delicious success. Besides the traditional pine nut, I’ve used everything from walnuts to sunflower seeds. So when I saw the June cover of Bon Appetit, featuring a gorgeous plate of pasta in pesto sauce, that was the first recipe I turned to. And there I found a twist I hadn’t yet made: parsley pesto with roasted almonds.
Ok, Bon Appetit, challenge accepted.
The pesto came together quickly, within a minute or two using our Vitamix. I bought the almonds as recommended, unsalted and roasted, so besides washing some parsley and grating some Parmesan, there was hardly any prep to do. This was a serious bonus as I had worked late and come home hungry.
I could feel my excitement rising when I spooned the sauce into a bowl, marveling at its vibrancy. Look at how gorgeous it turned out:
While I wanted to make the recipe exactly as written, I had no dried spaghetti on hand. I did, however, have a bag of fresh pappardelle looking for a good time. Once it was cooked to al dente, I tossed it in a big bowl with the pesto, using reserved pasta water to help bind the two together.
So how was it?
I loved it! I know, I know, I’m so predictable. But here’s why I loved it compared to other pestos I’ve made. First off, you can’t beat the price. Every time I buy fresh basil, I cry a little inside at how expensive it is. Parsley, on the other hand, is affordable and unlike other herbs, stores seem to have a never-ending supply of it. And no matter what the season, it always looks relatively perky and fresh.
The freshness carries over to the flavor — this pesto was herbal but not overpowering. It didn’t have any bitterness to tame, it was just light, bright and refreshing — the perfect pesto to nudge us into summer.
And while it’s more than fine on its own, its easy-going nature makes this pesto a perfect backdrop for any seasonal vegetables. The following night I tossed the leftovers with blanched asparagus and broccoli, and it was fabulous. In fact, I ate this three times in three days and still managed to be actually sad when I got to the last noodle.
It goes without saying, I’ll be whipping up another batch very soon!
Just for kicks, here’s a picture I took of my “photography station.” In the summer months, I like to use as much natural light as possible and so I’m constantly running from the kitchen to the yard, arms laden with bowls, spatulas, tongs and spoons, ready to snap a few pictures. Every once in a while, I get hit by a wave of awareness at how ridiculous this must seem. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy.