I was going to post this recipe weeks ago, even though the pictures were taken with my phone, because it turned out exactly how I imagined it in my head. I’ve never made a pesto with a soft cheese before but it worked. Creamy, substantial and satisfying.
And when I tasted the pasta it reminded me of the early nineties, of summers spent in Maine working and playing in a way that seemed so effortless at twenty-three and exhausts me just to contemplate now, and specifically of the smarty pants lecture I gave a customer who complained that his pesto wasn’t red ‘Like it’s supposed to be.’ I explained that while technically a pesto could be red because the word pesto refers to the action of the pestle not the ingredients, a traditional pesto is made with basil which is always green. I don’t think he believed me and there were no smarty pants phones to settle these questions back then just books and sun and sea and a certainty on my part that discouraged active disagreement.
I’m not sure why I’ve been posting so infrequently, I think I’ve been waiting for the muse. Not for recipes but for fiction. The muse is not whispering but she is tickling my feet. She is transporting me to the village green in Bar Harbor mid summer, I can see the band stand and the bored teenagers. The smell of grass and waffle cones from the ice cream shop across the street and I am sitting on a park bench with a coffee and my journal and the sun is warm on my back and all of life’s possibilities are dancing in front of me like shadow and sun in the trees.
Wondering about the bread? Yes, it is stuffed with a bit of spinach pesto. I was going to just make focaccia but at the last minute I changed it up using basically the same technique I used for the strawberry ciabatta (though this dough wasn’t quite so wet so it was even easier)
- 6 cloves of garlic- peeled
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into 1-2 inch cubes
- 8 ounces fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or cashews Optional- I didn't use any but if I didn't eat meat and wasn't allergic to walnuts and cashews I would add some
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 TBS butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1- 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken chopped to bite size Optional, I had leftover chicken so I added it but it certainly isn't needed especially if you add nuts to the pesto
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb pasta cooked to package instructions
Start pasta to cooking, meanwhile...
Mince garlic (And nuts if you are using them) in the bowl of a food processor, add spinach a handful at a time and pulse until roughly chopped. Add mozzarella and olive oil and process to desired smoothness, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Over low heat melt butter in a large pan. Add pesto and milk and heat through, stirring to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper . Add chicken and toss with cooked pasta.
Serve immediately. Garnish with grated parmesan and pepper flakes.