Much like the movement of haute fashion, the zeitgeist of modernist foodie-ism is to either find clever ways of manipulating the everyday ingredient into something new and thrilling, or incorporate an unconventional element into an otherwise mundane dish to add an unexpected dimension. To take an ordinary block of egg-topped focaccia and add a blot of bluefoot mushroom foam would instantaneously transform it into something exotic, yet familiar. I take friendless pleasure in spending my time embellishing comfort dishes with tasteful nuance that draws in the everyday person while appeasing the adventurous-minded simultaneously, and I think this recipe does just that.
My love for pasta knows no bounds, just as the girl with bangs knows no sex. If eating pasta for every meal was acceptable and not a detriment to my boyish frame then I would do so. The fact is that pasta is really not that great for you in the mountainous heaps that I wish to consume it, but please don’t mention this to the Italians. Not that they would take heed to your feeble attempt at a balky dissuasion, but if you favor your teeth you’d be well off to keep them hidden behind closed lips that don’t speak ill of pasta.
I, however, live in a world where pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner is frowned upon. By the general population, yes, but most notably by my horrifying physician: a stout Indian woman with a no-nonsense attitude and incriminating eyes. She once saw me in my underwear and she hasn’t looked at me the same since.
“You may need to watch what you eat,” she drones, her piercing brown eyes peering over her glasses perched at the end of her wide nose. “Your blood pressure has risen since we last checked you. That’s not good.” I considered telling her it was her dark demeanor, not my food, that was sending my BP up a notch, but wasn’t entirely convinced she didn’t hide knives up her coat sleeves so I kept my mouth shut.
While it’s true my diet is riddled with buckets of cream, gaggles of eggs – yolk and all – and enough butter to send a horse spiraling toward a quadruple bypass, I also make sure to mix in loads of greens, essential fats and have forgone sugar for much healthier snacks. That’s enough, isn’t it?
“No, it certainly isn’t.”
Clearly I need a new doctor.
On first inspection this dish appears to be your typical fettuccine and pesto that can be found at every dank Olive Garden from Tampa to Seattle, but underneath that deceptive aesthetic is so much more. The pasta – homemade, of course – is infused with the zest and juice of Meyer lemons. If you have never had a Meyer lemon, I demand you to go to your local Whole Foods or Asian market and pick them up immediately. Being a genetic hybrid between a lemon and Mandarin orange, the Meyer lemon taste more like a tart tangerine and can be peeled and eaten like one, if eating lemons is your sort of thing.
For the pesto I used fresh spinach instead of basil (thanks to winter), pistachios instead of pine nuts (thanks to price point) and plenty of black garlic (thanks to innovation). Black garlic probably gave you pause, and it should. How is it any different from regular garlic? Well, black garlic is regular garlic that’s been carefully fermented and aged to produce something both classy and a little funky, not unlike most people over the age of sixty. The fermentation process turns the bulb soft, black and sweetly aromatic. With its spreadable consistency smooth enough for brioche and a taste so profoundly balsamic, black garlic is my new kitchen copilot. Getting my hands on this bad boy was a bit of a hassle, but if you find any in your local market I encourage you to pick it up, pronto.
Oh, and if you’re Dr. Smaha, then A) how did you find my blog, B) I promise I didn’t eat this, and C) don’t cut me.
MEYER LEMON-INFUSED FETTUCCINE COATED IN SPINACH, BLACK GARLIC AND PISTACHIO PESTO
Preparation time: 35 minute(s)
Cooking time: 5 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2
- 1 1/4 cup bread, durum or 00 flour, though AP will work as well
- 2 Large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 Meyer lemons, juiced and zested, saving the remnants.
- 1 tsp Table salt
- 5 cup Packed, fresh spinach leaves
- 1/3 cup Pistachios, sans shell
- 6 Cloves black garlic
- 1/2 tbsp Truffle salt (or kosher salt if not using truffle salt)
- 1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup Grape seed or canola oil
- 1/2 cup Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Pepper to taste
- 4-6 Sundried tomatoes, chopped (optional)
- To make the pasta, add flour and table salt to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
- Add eggs, Meyer lemon juice and zest and mix into the flour with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.
- Place pasta ball on a floured surface and dust with flour. Knead for 5 to 8 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary, until the ball is smooth and no longer sticky.
- If using a pasta rolling/cutting machine, use according to manufacturer’s instructions. If Cutting by hand, flour your rolling surface, place half of the prepared dough onto the floured surface and lightly cover with dough. Lightly cover a rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough until 1/8 of an inch thick. It may take a while for the dough to cooperate and roll out without retracting, but keep rolling until the dough cooperates and rolls into a thin sheet.
- Dust dough with flour; cut dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, and place on pasta drying rack to dry.
- Fill a bowl with cold water and ice and bring a pot of water to a boil. Quickly blanch spinach leaves in boiling water — the leaves should only be dunked and immediately removed — and immediately place into the bowl of ice water. This will ensure the spinach leaves maintain their taste and color.
- Place pistachios, spinach leaves, black garlic and truffle salt into a food processor and pulse until ground. Add olive oil and continue to pulse until smooth. While mixing, slowly add the grape seed or canola oil until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- Place remnants of zested and juiced Meyer lemons into a pot with just enough water to cover the noodles and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add noodles, cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they’re cooked but firm to the bite. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
- Drain noodles and toss with four or more tablespoons of the prepared pesto. Add more, as desired, and serve immediately.
- Top with sundried tomatoes, if using.