Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trofie al pesto the traditional way, egg salad dip and genes

I am still trying to get that darn freezer empty and I am also working hard on using up everything I have lying around my kitchen before leaving as opposed to buying stuff.

Our previous neighbor was coming to dinner last night and I had a little under an hour to prepare, while bathing the kids and feeding the baby. So I was trying to get organized whilst carrying said  baby around on my hip and in the midst of this, I was wondering why I get myself into these situations? I have repeatedly told myself not to have guests over on week nights. There just isn't enough time to get back from work and take care of the kids and cook. Then again, I thought to myself, I cook for my family every evening and my friend A. and I had agreed it would be a simple pasta dinner and really just an excuse to get together. So why not?

1) Because, as all you moms know, your baby always picks the evening you have guests coming over to be whiney and especially clingy.

2) Because you promise your guest you will just make a simple pasta and stick a bottle of wine in the fridge and it suddenly doesn't seem like it is enough. Those Jewish genes you inherited from your father's side of the family, the German genes from your mother and the Sicilian ones you have absorbed by osmosis over the years from your husband start playing dirty tricks on your mind. There is not enough food. I need to make more. It is rude to have a guest over and just serve a plate of pasta. The table has to be set perfectly. Oh no, there are little finger prints everywhere!!! Who ever said dinners can be a relaxed affair? Why didn't I buy more food??? Why don't I have an apetizer ready? NO SALAD OR BREAD??? WHAT WAS I THINKING?????? AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

My eyes quickly scoured the shelves in the fridge. Eggs, an almost empty jar of mayonnaise (perfect!), fennel, grapefruit...My mind worked quickly as I bounced S. on my hip. Maybe I was safe, my reputation was not shot. I had a plan. A simple plan, but still a plan.

I whipped up a quick dip and emptied out my bag of crackers.
I used my beloved mandoline to prepare a quick and colorful salad.
A. brought ice cream from our neighborhood gelateria: melon, watermelon, bacio and cookies'n'cream.
We drank a bottle of Sicilian white wine, Glicine.

It turned out to be a really nice dinner and I reverted from hostzilla back to being a relaxed, normal person.

Rucola, pink grapefruit and fennel salad

Trofie al pesto con patate e fagiolini
750gr trofie (for a main course for 3 adults plus a child)
approx. 200-250gr pesto (recipe below)
500gr frozen green beans
1 large potato
approx. 1/2 cup of pine nuts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Peel and dice the potato into bite size pieces. Toast the pine nuts in a pan until they turn golden brown. When the water starts boiling, add kosher salt and throw in the green beans and the potatoes. Wait till the water starts boiling again and throw in the trofie. Traditionally pesto is eaten with trennette (a long, flat kind of pasta similar to linguine) or trofie (fresh pasta that is similar to fusilli), both from the Liguria region. The fresh trofie take approx. 10 minutes to cook, enough for the vegetables to be cooked through too. When the pasta is ready, save a little of the cooking water, drain the pasta and mix in the pesto and the toasted pine nuts and add some cooking water if you want a creamier sauce. Add some grated parmesan, fresh black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and you will be set to go.

50 gr basil (preferably the smaller, young leaves)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (from Liguria, its inhabitants would say)
6 tbsp parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
2 tbsp pecorino (sardo, romano, toscano or whatever you have available)
2 cloves of garlic (or more, or less, or none according to your taste)
1 tbsp of pine nuts (I usually like to add a little more)
a pinch of kosher salt

Now, you have two options. Pull out your mortar and pestle and start working. Or pull out your blender and leisurely push a button. True experts would say you contaminate the basil using a metal blade. That is why you should always rip the leaves with your hands when garnishing salads and pasta and not chop it. Anyhow, I have done both and given I did not notice a huge difference, I would advise you to take advantage of modern kitchen appliances and save yourself some time and energy. But if you believe your pesto should be "pestato", be my guest and work away. And don't forget to invite me to dinner!

I am sorry for the lack of pictures documenting the preparation but  I used up a jar of pesto I had stored in my freezer a while back.

Egg salad dip

3 eggs
1 tbsp mayonnaise
a pinch of salt
1/2tsp of Pimenton de la Vera

Hard boil three eggs. Let cool and peel. Chop up coarsely, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Add 1/2 tsp of Pimenton de la Vera (or more if you like the heat). Mix and serve with crackers.


  1. That looks wonderful! And yes I am the same way with having friends or family over for an easy dinner. It always ends up turning into a big production!

  2. I like that egg salad dip. I made the same using hummus. So simple but tasty.

    On a side note...What's the weather like in Italy from October - November? I'm thinking of heading that way after the wedding next year.

  3. I would have been feeling like royalty if you had served this meal to me. Your salad is beautiful and the pasta looks scrumptious. Pesto is such a divine sauce. Nice work.

  4. Lorraine - I am sure you make up for everything with your amazing desserts!
    Lea - It really depends what area of Italy you are planning to travel to. Up north it is pretty grey and dark in November. Down south the climate should be more temperate.
    Lynne - what a compliment from the woman who cooked mojito grilled lime wings! They sound delicious!

  5. I'm the same, all gung ho and full of bravado thinking "I'll whip something up" - its just about the company yadi yadi .... :) And then this evil voice starts muttering inside my head...., but your chef, people have expectations, I have expectations.... and before you know it I've somehow managed to pull it off (minus the baby obligations) slightly confused at my strange behaviour. Great job...

  6. Hi Anna, thanks for dropping in! you're telling me...except I am not a chef. I am sure what you whip up cannot even be compared. Off to read your blog!


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