Close to the heart.

I have a friend who I wouldn’t hesitant to say is an extrovert. This friend has a talent for sharing stories about his life that has a way of pulling in any audience, creating vivid images and captivating stories of his childhood. Telling stories comes easily for this person. I am the complete opposite, a shy introvert who has an extremely difficult time sharing about myself.

I recently read the book Quiet, by Susan Cain, which dives into the differences between extroverts and introverts, and what it means to be an introvert in a world that won’t stop talking. This book was empowering. At one point, Susan explains that introverts, often exhausted by social situations, find their voice in writing. I think this is the reason I am so drawn to the idea of sharing my life through writing, and also through food.

Food, in particular, is a way I can express myself and communicate with others. My mother-in-law always says that food is one of her love languages; it is how she shares her heart with family and friends. I completely resonate with this. The particular recipe I am sharing today, in fact, I often make as a way to share my own love and family history with others. This is the meal I requested most often on my birthday as a child, and frequently make for special occasions nowadays. It is and will always be close to my heart because of the special memories it evokes.

The following is the recipe for my grandmother’s pesto. While most people I know have their go-to pesto recipe and there are a million variations out there, I think this recipe is something special. My grandmother is from Genoa, in the NoPestorthwest portion of Italy. This pesto is a reflection of her roots in this particular region-where pesto originates from. This recipe uses evaporated milk to create a luscious sauce that covers ever morsel of pasta. This is and will always be my favorite pesto recipe, particularly when it is served over homemade gnocchi such as this one from the Smitten Kitchen or the kitchn.

My Grandmother’s Pesto
Serves 4-6

2 large bunches of fresh, organic basil
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, whole
1 tsp sea salt (approximately the amount that fits in the center of your palm when in a cupped position)
1/2-12 oz. can of fat free evaporated milk (add more liquid as desired)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb. gnocchi or pasta of choice (I often use penné which has nice ridges for the sauce to find its way into for the most flavorful experience)

Wash basil, rPesto 2emove leaves, and pat dry. Blend all ingredients, except for the cheese, until combined. Add the cheese and pulse to combine.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook according to directions on the box, or 2-3 minutes if using homemade gnocchi. Drain pasta. Reserve a small cup of pasta water to add to pesto, if desired.

Toss the pesto and pasta together, and serve. I often add some sauteéd zucchini or mushrooms to the pasta and serve along side a piece of fish or chicken.

Some modifications include adding a little pasta water to thin out the sauce or pat of butter to thicken it up a bit. I do not use either, but wanted to include these variations since my mother and grandmother often use to.

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