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Cook: Spaghetti with Avocado and Arugula Pesto

Have you heard that research that says owning a pet reduces blood pressure, stress and tension and all that stuff that generally causes us  high blood pressure, stress and tension?  I was watching a hilarious travel show and the main character, while traveling in Japan, visited a coffee shop just filled with cats.  Cats!  Cats sleeping, cats playing, cats knocking things off tables…you know, cats.  The idea was you come get a coffee, pet some kittens, watch them play, and go on about your business.  Blood pressure goes down, caffeine induced productivity goes up.  This is a place I want to go to.

It got me thinking though.  I grew up with at least two pets at all times.  I first realized how big of an impact they had on my life and general morale when I went to college.  After a year in the dorms, a loud, hungry kitten wandered up to my door.  I named him Tuna, and we were happy.  
When I moved to Boston I sublet a place with two cats for the summer (what up, Bruce and Elaine!?), and then moved and worked in a place where was my job to take care of three cats and two dogs.  See?  Animals abound.  When I left that job and that living situation, I found myself living with people I didn’t know and not an animal in sight.
That lasted about eight months.  About 3 weeks after I moved into my own place, and after having a truly horrible day, I wandered into the Animal Rescue League really just wanting be around a cat.  
That cat is now living here, shedding on everything, and absolutely monopolizing my lap.  It’s wonderful.
My point is, and I do have one, is that sometimes the things that relieve the most stress are the things we aren’t even aware of.  It’s second nature; we’ve never been without them.  These are the things that make our shoulders relax.  Animals have always been that for me, and I’m learning that cooking is too.
Especially if I’m cooking with pasta, avocado, arugula, and walnuts.  Those are some serious stress reducers. Kind of like a cat in your lap, but with food.  Did that just gross you out?  Sorry.
This pesto is like all of my favorite things mixed up in a food processor.  Let’s do this!
Start by toasting some walnuts in a dry pan until fragrant.  
When those smell like toasted walnuts, transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.  Meanwhile, assemble your ingredients.  (I just said that in my head like a superhero: Ingredients, ASSEMBLE!  Yeah, I don’t know.  It’s late)
Basil, garlic, lime, avocado, arugula.  All good things.  Those good things go into the food processor, along with the cooled toasted walnuts, salt and pepper, and some Parmesan cheese.
My food processor is small, so I had to do it in two batches.  In hindsight, I probably would have been fine with just one batch.  But, leftovers will not go unused, I promise you! 
Pulse that until smooth.  You’ll probably have to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times, as there’s not much liquid to keep it all moving.  
When the pesto is done, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.  Then, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and throw in some spaghetti.
Cook according to package instructions to al dente and before draining, reserve about a cup of the pasta water.  Drain and return to the pan and then add half of the pesto and a splash of pasta water to loosen it up.  Toss and toss and toss until all the pasta is coated in the pesto.  You can add however much pasta water as you need, but you probably won’t use all of it.  
Serve it up in bowls with some torn basil and of course, Parmesan cheese.
This pasta is light, refreshing, and tastes, and looks, like Spring.  The creamy avocado, peppery arugula, and fragrant basil come together to create such a magnificent sauce that is a really great alternative to traditional pesto.
Because the avocados are so creamy, no olive oil is needed and the pesto stays far away from greasy and oily.  It’s the perfect partner to pasta.  
If making this pasta makes your shoulders relax, you should do it.  If taking a quick run around the block does that, you should do it right now.  Or tomorrow morning, when it’s light out, because I want you to be safe.  If you’re like me and the sound of your snoring cat warms your heart, go pet that cat and laugh because he totally flinched when you woke him up.  Find your relaxation and do it.
Here’s the recipe!
Spaghetti with Avocado and Arugula Pesto (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

This recipe makes way to much pesto for a pound of pasta.  I ended up using only about half of the pesto I prepared.  If you make the whole recipe, save the rest for a flavorful dip, a great sandwich spread, or great base for crostini or bruschetta.  

Ingredients 
  • 1 pound pasta of your choice.  I used spaghetti but any long pasta will do.
  • 2 medium avocados
  • 3 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Method
  1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Move them around a couple of times and watch them closely so they don’t burn.  Walnuts want to burn.  Set them aside and let them cool completely before using.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flesh of the two avocados, arugula, basil, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan and toasted walnuts.  Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally.  You may have to do this in batches, in which case just divide the ingredients evenly and mix thoroughly when you combine the two batches.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water then drain and return to the pot.  Add half of the pesto and a splash of pasta water and toss until the pasta is coated completely.  You may need to use a bit more water to loosen up the sauce, but you probably won’t use the whole cup.
  4. Serve in bowls with torn basil on top and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  
Enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Cook: Spaghetti with Avocado and Arugula Pesto

  1. Hi Hatsie,
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