Mother’s Day / Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

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This week’s recipe: Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

So it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m sure that every blogger out there is like, “My mom is the best!” But really, my mom IS the best. Here, I lay out the case:

-My mom is a pioneer for women. She was in the first-ever class of women to graduate from Yale, and she went to Harvard Business School at a time when it was only 10 percent women. When my sisters and I were born, she worked for Dow Jones, and she was the second woman ever in that company to take maternity leave. Although she was intensely smart and driven, she also sacrificed for her kids, turning down promotions so that she could be home to have dinner with us and tuck us in. For years, I thought she was the family’s primary breadwinner. While this was inaccurate, it did wonders when it came to building up my self-esteem and my conception of what women are capable of. Here’s a fun story: my parents met at Harvard, where my dad was in law school and my mom in business school. Nearing graduation, my dad got offers from law firms in Pittsburgh and New York. My mom went to interview for jobs (again, this was a time when women in business was a novel concept). Almost all of the jobs in Pittsburgh at the time were in heavy industry, and her interviewers asked her intrusive questions about her personal life, her plans to marry and have kids, that today would be illegal to ask in a job interview. She was feeling hopeless about her prospects when she accompanied my dad to a dinner with the Pittsburgh firm’s partners and their wives. She recounted her woes to one of the wives, who told her, “Oh, don’t worry. I married my husband and since then, I’ve never worked a day in my life!” This prompted my mom to go to the bathroom and burst into tears. My dad literally proposed to her to get her to stop crying. Such is my mom’s work ethic and commitment to a professional as well as personal life.

-My mom never* compared me to my sisters. As the youngest of three girls, all of whom went to the same school and the same camp, it was natural that I would spend a lot of time trying to live up to my sisters. They were smart and popular and, it seemed to me, successful in ways that I could never match. My mom never made me feel like I was worth any less than them. When I was in ninth grade, I almost failed math. My parents told me, years later, that after the parent-teacher conference where they found out about my terrible math grades, they had a conversation about how they had to adjust their expectations for where I would be able to get into college. But they never let me know that, and whenever I would put myself down and say that my sisters were smart and I was dumb, my mom would raise me up, would remind me of all the places where I excelled, and would encourage me to try harder where I was failing. I fully credit her unceasing supportive attitude with the fact that I did eventually raise my grades and get into a good college.

-My mom is in a loving relationship and is nevertheless independent from my dad. My parents have been married for over forty years, and they have a partnership that anyone would envy. Still, they each have their own lives, their own interests and hobbies, and partnership has never lapsed into co-dependency. This has been a model for me in my relationships, and I think it’s the healthiest way to be.

-My mom never* made me feel bad about my body. Considering all that she’s done for me, it sounds weird to say that this was her greatest gift, but I had so many friends whose mothers gave them complexes about their bodies that manifested in really dangerous, long-lasting ways. Even though I was very overweight for much of my adolescence, my mom always gave me the message that there are more important things than how much you weigh. Even during my most awkward years, she never made me feel bad about my appearance. She let me come to awareness of my body in my own time, whether that was losing weight, learning how to manage my hair, or developing my own style. For a young woman, that’s an invaluable gift.

-My mom is now passing along these amazing gifts to her grandchildren. She is completely devoted to them and they are so lucky to have her. When I have kids, I know that she will be the most positive influence in their lives, and I only hope that I can be half the mom that she is.

*And when I say “never”, I don’t mean “never”, because my mom is human and she’s not perfect. Watching her sometimes fumble or struggle but always come back stronger has taught me the meaning of resilience and spirit. She is really the best!

So anyway, here’s some pasta. It’s the perfect dish for spring – light and green and gorgeous. I served it to one of my pickiest friends and she ate every bite.

Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto

From Feast and Fable 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb Fresh Fettuccine Pasta (I use this recipe)
  • 3 oz. Arugula
  • 1 lemon, plus additional lemon wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 lb Sugar Snap Peas
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Shallot
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pistachios, toasted and chopped for topping
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Heat a medium pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh produce. Snap off the ends of each sugar snap pea and pull off any tough strings that run the seam of the pod. Thinly slice the shallot and mince the garlic. Juice and zest the lemon.

2.) To make the pesto, place the arugula, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Begin pulsing, and drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste. Next, add the juice from the lemon into the food processor and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside in a bowl.

3.) If you haven’t already, toast the pistachios in a pan over medium heat until brown and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

4.) Using a large skillet, melt the 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Then, add the minced garlic and sliced shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, until softened, about 2 to 4 minutes. Then, add the sugar snap peas and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until the peas are bright green, about 1 minute, and remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

5.) Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 2 to 3 minutes or according to instructions. Once cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

6.) To assemble, add the pasta, arugula pesto and half of the pasta water to the pan of cooked snap peas. Use tongs to combine and evenly distribute the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta seems dry, add in more of the remaining pasta cooking water. Next, plate the pasta and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, Parmesan cheese and an extra lemon wedge.

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