Not long ago, while Cookie and I were out walking, I watched an older lady cross paths with another woman and her dog. I realized that the women were strangers. Dogs have a way of bringing people together, you know? As we walked up, my gray-haired neighbor was asking permission to pet the big, slobbery mastiff. Then came the usual, “What kind of dog is that?” question.
Three single women, two dogs, one neighborhood intersection on a warm summer evening. We all started swapping laughs and sighs about our pups’ peculiarities as Cookie wiggle-waggled over to the older lady. She fawned over Cookie and admitted that she recently lost her 15-year-old collie. We expressed our condolences. The other woman mentioned her current mastiff’s beloved predecessor and suggested, “Why don’t you get another?” The older lady confessed that it was too much, too hard to lose an ever-present companion, that it’s just the worst. My heart broke for her. I get it. Maybe you get it, too. It is terrifying to love another being so much.
Cookie hopped the fence on Wednesday afternoon. I let her come outside with me while I was talking to my friend on the phone. I watched in horror as she made one impressive, graceful, vertical leap over the chain-link fence to pursue a bunny.
Ten, fifteen, I don’t know how many minutes passed while I was frantically shrieking her name out the car windows and flagging down neighbors. Finally, my phone rang. Cookie was safe at the bank, of all places. Whether for safety or cash for the road, Cookie had run inside the bank. Her new friends were feeding her treats in the conference room when I got there.
I worry about this little rascal’s safety all day, every day. We can’t have another accident. I think we need to move back to an apartment with double doors, either now or when my lease is up. Ironically, I lied about having a back yard when I adopted Cookie. I’m not proud of it. I wanted Cookie and I knew I could take good care of her. Anyway, they were wrong about the backyard requirement. She’s definitely better off in a safe, secure space and long, daily walks. I’m sad to say that she’ll be exploring the backyard on a retractible leash from now on.
I don’t have a good transition here, from dogs to pasta, other than an apology for being a downer today. I threw together this dish for lunch last week with leftover pesto from my pizza. It’s very similar to last summer’s cilantro-pepita pesto pasta concept, but I topped it with delicious burst cherry tomatoes. I can’t claim that it’s a totally original recipe—Beth and Sarah have beautiful, similar zucchini noodle recipes—but are any recipes truly original at this point? Tomatoes and pesto were made for each other!
I’m a pesto-loving arugula fiend, but if you take away anything from my pesto recipes, I hope it’s that it’s impossible to go wrong with pesto. Kale-hemp seed pesto, cilantro-cashew pesto, traditional basil… almost any blend of herbs or greens and nuts or seeds is guaranteed to delight. Top it off with quick-cooked cherry tomatoes for a filling summer dinner.
Pesto Squash Noodles and Spaghetti with Burst Cherry Tomatoes
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 to 4
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Italian
Homemade pesto tossed with raw squash noodles and spaghetti, topped with burst cherry tomatoes. This vegetarian recipe is easily made vegan and/or gluten free (see recipe notes). Feel free to substitute 6 to 8 ounces of quality store-bought pesto for a quicker meal. Recipe yields two large servings or four side servings, which would be great served with big green salads!
- 2 cups packed fresh arugula and/or basil, tough stems removed
- ½ cup sliced shelled pecans
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Squash noodles and spaghetti
- 1 medium zucchini, julienne
- 1 medium yellow squash, julienne
- ⅓ pound (a little over 5 ounces) whole grain spaghetti or linguine
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes or ¾ pound small tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Dash red pepper flakes
- Dash salt
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cut off the tough ends of the squash and remove any discolored skin with a paring knife. Use a julienne peeler (or regular peeler) to slice the squash lengthwise, one side at a time. Stop once you get to the seeded part, then turn the squash to work on the next side.
- Toast the pecans: In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans, while stirring frequently, until they’re nice and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a bowl to cool.
- To make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the arugula/basil, cooled pecans, Parmesan, garlic and salt. Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
- Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Before draining, reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and return to pot.
- Cook the tomatoes: First, slice about 5 of the tomatoes into thin rounds and reserve them for later. In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and red pepper flakes. Once the oil is shimmering, add the whole cherry tomatoes and a dash of salt. Let the tomatoes cook, stirring occasionally, until they are blistered in spots and starting to pop, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, lightly crushing the tomatoes with the back of a big spoon or silicone spatula, until they are beginning to break down, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sliced tomatoes.
- To assemble the pasta: Combine the pasta and squash noodles in a serving bowl. Add most of the pesto and a couple tablespoons pasta water. Toss to combine, adding more pesto or pasta water until the noodles are sufficiently coated in pesto. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, if desired. Divide the noodles into individual bowls and top with cherry tomatoes. I finished mine with another twist of freshly ground black pepper.
Recipe adapted from my arugula-almond pesto, cilantro-pepita pesto with squash ribbons and Bon Appetit’s linguine with burst tomatoes and chili peppers.
Make it vegan/dairy free: Omit the Parmesan altogether or add nutritional yeast, to taste, in its place.
Make it gluten free: Use your favorite gluten-free noodles or just make extra squash noodles.
Make it nut free: Substitute pepitas for the pecans or omit the nuts altogether for an herby olive oil sauce.
Storage suggestions: Pesto is best consumed immediately after making. It oxidizes with air exposure, so store it separately from other components, with plastic wrap pressed against the top.
Change it up: Use any pesto you like, whether homemade or store-bought. During cooler months, non-starchy roasted vegetables would be a great substitute for the tomatoes.
Recommended equipment: I love my Kuhn Rikon julienne peeler and Cuisinart food processor.
▸ Nutrition Information
P.s. The site seems to be struggling to stay live today, but I’m working on it. Please be patient!