Cooking What I Want

Pasta with Broccolini Pesto and Crème Fraîche

By • April 23, 2014 • 21 Comments

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When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A letter, an empty-out-the-fridge pesto, and a pasta dish to commit to memory.

Dear Bella,  

This morning, you rolled over and yelled out, I want a grilled cheese with pesto in my lunch. And then you added, please. And then you said, but only if that's okay, mom, if not, just make me whatever is easiest. That's when I felt my heart grow too damn big for my chest. It pushed up and made a little lump in my throat. It made the back of my neck tingle.

And that's when I thought, hot damn. That baby girl of mine is going to be okay. I just need to keep letting go.

You probably don't remember, but I spent the first six months of your life holding your teeny screaming body to my chest. While bouncing vigorously on a massive blue exercise ball. Because you thought this world sucked. And you wanted back into my womb. The first time I could put you down without hearing a colicky wail, I sobbed with relief and accomplishment. As if, yes, I have arrived. I am done. I did my work.

But then I had to be brave enough to walk around the corner to make myself a cup of coffee and believe that you would still be alive when I came back.

Then I learned to let go of your hand. Your baby words. Your need to always be by my side. 

More and more, lately, I've been jumping ahead to the day that you move out of our house. I have so much more to teach you. How are we going to fit it all in?

So I've decided to start writing things down. Here's my first lesson. And surprise surprise, it involves the kitchen. Start here, and many other things will fall into place:

1. Freeze little bits of everything. Bacon. Tart dough. Half a cookie. Nuts. Coffee. A chunk of parmesan. Pesto. Tomato sauce. Baguette scraps. That way you can throw a dinner together in the middle of the night. You never know. 

2. Make your own crème fraîche. Once a week. It will brighten up everything. Your windowsill. Your chocolate cake. Your pancakes. Your pasta.

3. Put lemon zest in everything.

4. Learn to make empty-out-the-fridge pesto. Kale and almonds and manchego. Or arugula and walnuts and goat cheese. Almost any combination works. It is cost effective. It is versatile.

And someday, in your own kitchen, you will find yourself eating pasta with broccolini pesto, crème fraîche, and lemon zest. For breakfast. Like I did this morning. But until then, I will rouse you out of bed, help you search for matching socks, wipe the Nutella off your chin, and tuck your hair behind your ears. Until you slip slip slip out of my fingers into someone else's arms.



Pasta with Broccolini Pesto and Crème Fraîche 

Serves 4

For the Broccolini Pesto

1 bunch broccolini, about 10 stalks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, for blanching
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed arugula
1/3 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and still warm
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and still warm
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar
2 anchovies, packed in oil (or more!)
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup fresh and creamy goat cheese
1/2 to 1 cup olive oil (start with 1/2 cup)
Kosher salt to taste

For the pasta  

1 teaspoon kosher salt (for pasta water)
1 pound pasta (I use spaghetti)
3/4 cup broccolini pesto
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Zest strips from 1 lemon
1 cup broccolini florets (save stalks for soup or stock)
Olive oil
Coarse salt

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

Photos by Phyllis Grant 

Tags: cooking what I want, dashandbella, broccolini, pesto, pasta, recipe

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Comments (21)


11 months ago Callista Lemay

I can't wait for your book.
That letter was beautiful.
And I will never get tired of your Instagram feed.

Thank you


11 months ago Phyllis Grant

Thank you so much, Callista!


12 months ago Suda

I am 22 and taking serious notes off this post. Your style of writing is so beautiful and simple. Thank you for posting this.


11 months ago Phyllis Grant

thank you for reading and for commenting. it means a lot. i was just writing the section in my book about being 22. seems like yesterday. seems like a million years ago. so much has happened in the past 22 years. you are half my age! so much to look forward. have a great weekend.


11 months ago Brette Warshaw

I'm 22 too -- and sent this to my mom and she teared up :)


12 months ago judith

Beautifully put. I can identify with you, but know that they grow up and out of the house and travel the world and back, but they are still your little baby.


12 months ago cheesypennies

The answer to your last question is, "You can't ever fit it all in.". But, as someone with a son leaving the nest soon, I can say you will fit in exactly enough. She's a lucky girl.


11 months ago Phyllis Grant

i love the idea of exactly enough. thank you.


12 months ago ATG117

I'm not a mom, but a daughter, and I loved this piece. Your writing is great, which lead me to your blog, which--it turns out--I've seen referenced many a time. Have you ever though of updating the formatting?


12 months ago Phyllis Grant

what do you mean by the formatting?


12 months ago Melina Hammer

Ooooooh what a dreamscape. Is it possible Bella ever looks at your work here? What a love story. I am touched.


12 months ago Phyllis Grant

i don't think she has ever read what i'm doing at food52. when she was little she read my blog. but the content was different back then. very complicated. i'm struggling a lot lately with what i want her to read. but i think this story be a good place to bring her back in. she asked me to stop writing about her a few years ago. and i did.


12 months ago healthierkitchen

Why have I not been reading your blog all this time? Love, love, your writing Phyllis! Last sentence is just beautiful. And they do, slip, slip, slip out of your fingers...


12 months ago Phyllis Grant

thank you. that's my favorite moment. makes me cry.


12 months ago Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

I have a lump in my throat now too.


12 months ago Lauren

Maybe I should blame it on the hormones from carrying twins (my first!) at the moment, but I think my tears were just because of the way you spoke so lovingly of your daughter. I don't like crying, but I feel like I should thank you, anyway.


12 months ago Phyllis Grant

i don't like crying either. but it does help. twins! how amazing. congratulations.


12 months ago Jennifer Victory

Phyllis, you always speak what is in my heart.


12 months ago Phyllis Grant

jennifer, i think we have so much in common. it's amazing.


12 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

This story makes my heart feel like exploding.


12 months ago Phyllis Grant