Pasta with Broccolini Pesto and Crème Fraîche

April 23, 2014

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.

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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 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Callista Lemay
    Callista Lemay
  • Suda
  • judith
  • cheesypennies
  • ATG117
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Callista L. May 16, 2014
I can't wait for your book.
That letter was beautiful.
And I will never get tired of your Instagram feed.

Thank you
Phyllis G. May 17, 2014
Thank you so much, Callista!
Suda April 27, 2014
I am 22 and taking serious notes off this post. Your style of writing is so beautiful and simple. Thank you for posting this.
Phyllis G. May 17, 2014
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.
Brette W. May 23, 2014
I'm 22 too -- and sent this to my mom and she teared up :)
judith April 25, 2014
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.
cheesypennies April 25, 2014
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.
Phyllis G. May 17, 2014
i love the idea of exactly enough. thank you.
ATG117 April 24, 2014
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?
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014
what do you mean by the formatting?
Melina H. April 24, 2014
Ooooooh what a dreamscape. Is it possible Bella ever looks at your work here? What a love story. I am touched.
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014
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.
healthierkitchen April 23, 2014
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...
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014
thank you. that's my favorite moment. makes me cry.
Lindsay-Jean H. April 23, 2014
I have a lump in my throat now too.
Lauren April 23, 2014
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.
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014
i don't like crying either. but it does help. twins! how amazing. congratulations.
Jennifer V. April 23, 2014
Phyllis, you always speak what is in my heart.
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014
jennifer, i think we have so much in common. it's amazing.
Kenzi W. April 23, 2014
This story makes my heart feel like exploding.
Phyllis G. April 25, 2014