I still remember that night at her apartment. We were in the wee days of our early twenties, and I traversed the stairs to her place where she was boiling pasta. We’d met in high school, but now she was newly married and cooking us dinner. This was uncharted territory. Usually we were meeting over booths and plates of nachos. Now she was married with living room shelves loaded with her husband’s Star Wars action figures. He had a vast array of Storm Troopers to create a full army of plastic men. (No judgment. My boyfriend at the time had decorated our living room with Lego sets. What can I say? We all had a type.)
My friend tossed the hot pasta in deep green pesto from a jar. Regardless of the jar, to my sensibilities it seemed straight up fancy. My go-to pasta sauces were also from jars, but stuffed with tomatoes and zucchini. This one had the freshly cut grass smell of basil, notes of garlic, and the nutty depth of pine nuts. Action figures or no, it all felt so adult, like new terrain we were treading. It felt like playing dress-up in these new lives as grown-ups.
Looking back on those days long ago, I can’t help but think of how much time has passed between then and now – not just in days and hours but in life phases. At each step of our lives, it feels like now is the way it will always be. We’ll always fall asleep in these beds and wake up to this breakfast… Until one day you realize you haven’t made that once-favorite meal or gone to that once-favorite restaurant in many moons.
Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project, said, “The years are short, but the days are long.” Each day with its routine, and duties, and going to the bank, and doing the laundry, they stretch to fill until suddenly you’re in an altogether different place, and yesterday’s normal is not today’s.
Yesterday’s fancy is today’s simple spring meal – chunky homemade pesto with just-plucked basil and fresh-from-the-ground garlic. It’s tossed with crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside roasted gnocchi. And it’s everything I need to revisit a full mouthful of spring… just add Storm Troopers.
Chunky Almond Pesto with Roasted Gnocchi
- 1 8-ounce package gnocchi
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ cups loosely packed basil leaves
- ½ cup loosely packed cilantro, rough stems removed
- 1-2 cloves garlic (depending on your preferences & clove size), minced
- 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup roasted almonds
- 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
- 1 teaspoon white miso paste
- ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil gnocchi according to package directions and drain in a colander. Add drained, cooked gnocchi to a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Toss gnocchi in extra virgin olive oil and spread evenly across the baking sheet. Roast in oven for 10 minutes, stopping once to flip the gnocchi for even roasting. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a food processor combine the remaining ingredients until it’s a chunky paste. Be careful about adding too much salt if you’re using salted almonds since miso is salty as well.
In a large bowl combine the roasted gnocchi with pesto and serve immediately.
Variations: This is a chunky, oil-free pesto. If you like a thinner pesto, feel free to add extra virgin olive oil with the pesto ingredients, adding one tablespoon at a time until it reaches your preferred viscosity. In lieu of olive oil, water can be used instead.
Feel free to use a different nut or seed instead of almonds and hemp seeds. Walnuts, pistachios, or classic pine nuts are all delicious choices. Not a cilantro fan? Substitute more basil for the cilantro instead.
This pesto is also wonderful over roasted broccoli or green beans.
Note: You’ll want to check the ingredients on brands of gnocchi to make sure it’s vegan. My favorite gnocchi brand is in the frozen section from Rising Moon Organics. The 8-ounce package of gnocchi makes for a small serving for two. It’s plenty if you’ll be having sides as well, but if it’s going to be the total meal for two, you may want to double it.