Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Arugula & Hazelnut Pesto Pasta with Feta Cheese

Simplicity can be underrated. In the overly complicated world we live in, when things that seem to make no sense occur, when your mind is overflowing with thoughts and ideas, it is often very simple things that we turn to, to make us happy. Simple acts of kindness, simple gestures of love, simple pleasures.


Our neighborhood does not have a big grocery store close by, so when we are lacking an ingredient or if we get snacky, we turn to our local corner store - Abbas. Co-owners Mike and Rod Abbas are wonderful people. It's one of those old style mom and pop places where you walk in and they welcome you with a friendly smile and conversation. Abbas is great because they have a wide selection of pantry goods; the typical pop, chips and candy bars, but also produce and  homemade sandwiches, soups and stews. I swear I am in the store every other day (at least!).

Last week I had unexpectedly run out of milk, so I stopped by Abbas to pick up a carton. While I was waiting in line to pay, the man in front of me, very obviously down on his luck, stepped slowly up to the counter with a handful of change and carefully put it down. There were a few dimes, a bunch of quarters and a couple of nickels in the pile. Without saying a word, Mike reached under the counter for a large cardboard box and began filling it with prepared sandwiches. He paused for a moment, look up at the gentleman, gesturing to a bunch of bananas. The man nodded and Mike added that to the heaping pile of sandwiches. He set the box on the counter swept the pile of change into his hand, which must have only added up to a dollar or two and carefully reminded the gentleman that he must eat those sandwiches up by the end of the next day. The gentleman smiled slightly and was on his way. Although, I was not surprised by this generosity, I was amazed by the almost mute interaction that I had just witnessed. Nothing needed to be said. I was comforted by the fact that there are still those who understand and realize that  good can be spread with simple acts - like allowing a man to eat and feel the dignity that he paid at least something for it.


After a long, stressful day at work on Monday, I was dead in the water. My brain just stopped working. While many people would turn to a take-out menu, when I am feeling rundown, I turn to my kitchen. Its the place where things become uncomplicated for me. I can think and focus on chopping, mixing or blending and the world outside, for a brief moment, seems to fade away. I wanted a big bowl of pasta; simple, comfort food. I set out all my ingredients and began to cook. The window was open for a soft breeze, the dog was running around, playing at my feet. I sighed and felt immediately better.

Whether a smile, a laugh, a hug, a box full of sandwiches or a giant bowl of pasta, we need not forget the little, easy, simple things in life that, for whatever reason, make the world a happier place.

Arugula & Hazelnut Pesto Pasta with Feta Cheese


 2 cups of organic baby arugula
1 cup of organic hazelnuts or filberts, plus a few for on top
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cups grated parmesan
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Feta cheese to crumble on top
3 cups of dry pasta of your choice

Start a large pot filled with water and a table spoon of salt over high heat to boil. When cooking pasta it is a very good idea to season the water liberally. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, add in your dry pasta. I used casarecce pasta because it has nooks and crannies for the pesto to get into. Cook pasta until al dente (to the tooth) or until it still has a slight bite to it.

Add the arugula, hazelnuts, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend until the mixture has a sauce-like consistency. I used a blender to make my pesto and it required a bit extra lubrication, so I added a bit of water to the sauce to loosen it up.

Once the pasta is cooked, strain, reserving a half cup of the cooking liquid. Add in all of the pesto to the pasta and coat well. If it seems too thick, add some of the reserve pasta water to loosen it up.

Serve the pasta family style, in a large bowl, with lots of crumbled feta cheese and some extra chopped hazelnuts on top.

*Note: This pasta is great left over the next day for lunch too! Maybe even better than fresh!


-Tina (Turnip)


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  2. sounds good and would be easy to make vegan too.