When I was a child, my favorite dinner was my father’s spaghetti. Every Friday night when we, my brother and me, stayed at his apartment, he made spaghetti with a spicy sausage sauce. I would heap a large portion of spaghetti on my plate, top it with lots of sauce, and sprinkle it with cheese from the round green canister. I washed it down with cold 2% milk, which always tasted a little watery to me back then, probably because we had whole milk at home. It is the pasta of my childhood, one that I will always love.
When I was nineteen, I had my first real summer job. Of course, I had worked before then, babysitting, and then the ice cream shop, and then the pharmacy at the local grocery store. But the summer after my first year of college, was the first time I had a job as an adult. I interned as a technician at a lab. I worked along side of scientists from all over the world. I felt very grown up, hanging out with people in the twenties and thirties who were in the midst of their careers. That was the summer that I had a glimpse of adulthood. I went on dates in Georgetown and sailing with friends in Annapolis. I was like a chick that had just pecked her way through her shell, hungry for what the world had to offer her.
One summer evening, I went to a going away party at the home of one of the Italian scientists. It was this night that I had my first adult pasta, and I fell in love…with the sauce. It was a silky, green, garlicky sauce that clung to bouncy spirals of rotini. I ate three bowls of pasta and stumbled into the kitchen as Francesca was making more sauce. It was so simple, basil, garlic, nuts, parmesan, and oil mixed together in her blender. That was over 20 years ago and sadly I don’t remember the exact amounts that Francesca used, but I’ve been chasing that sauce ever since. It is the taste of budding adulthood, the taste of optimism and possibility. Whenever I make pesto, I remember that summer and all that is possible still.
Pasta All Grown Up: A Summer Pesto
5 cloves garlic
2 oz fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts
2 oz Parmesan cheese
½ olive oil
¼ cup water
Mince the garlic. Place it with the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a food processor, and pulse until combined. Whisk the oil and water together. Drizzle it into the basil mixture while running the food processor.
Serve with pasta.