Pasta has always been my comfort food. Mostly because it was the only food I ate for the first 6 years of my life, pasta with cheese and the occasional side of bologna or cucumbers. I had a very discerning palette.
My mom made me homemade macaroni and cheese with elbows, butter, milk, and a very healthy helping of American cheese. She also made lasagne, pesto with fresh, seasonal basil, and a perfect spaghetti and meatballs, adding just the right amount of sugar to the tomato sauce. When my dad cooked pasta it was usually an unadulterated side dish, just throw some fresh ravioli or tagliatelle in salty boiling water, drain, add butter, maybe some chopped herbs, or some of mom’s pesto and that was it.
Of course, if we were going to have a side of plain pasta, it couldn’t be just any pasta. Dad and I would make our regular pilgrimage to Dave’s Fresh Pasta, where you could buy an endless variety of shapes and flavors – lemon fettucine, squid ink angel hair or pumpkin smoked mozzarella ravioli. Of all the specialty food stores we frequented, and there were many, this little pasta shop was my all time favorite. Floor to ceiling pasta everywhere you looked, it was heaven. Every year on my birthday I got to pick what we were having for dinner and every year without fail, I asked for Dave’s ravioli.
Tonight I was in need of some comfort food and since I am ailing from both a hangover and a searing sun burn, I resorted to the simplest of pasta dishes. The only real activity required is boiling water, chopping olives, and pureeing pesto. Despite the run of the mill grocery-store brand pasta, I think dad would have approved.
Ravioli Salad With Black Olives And Pepitas from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson.
1/3 cup / 1.5 ounces / 45 grams pepitas, toasted
1 cup / 0.5 ounce / 15 grams lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
1/3 cup / 0.5 ounce / 15 grams freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
2/3 cup / 160 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt
16 ounces / 450 grams fresh or frozen ravioli
1/2 cup / 3 ounces / 85 grams oil-cured black olives, pitted and torn or chopped
Thyme or chive flowers, to garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, make the cilantro pesto. Combine most of the pepitas, cilantro, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice and a splash of the olive oil and blend with an immersion blender (or in a food processor or standard blender) until smooth. Continue blending as you gradually drizzle in the remaining olive oil, until the pesto comes together into a vibrant green sauce. Taste and add salt or more lemon juice, if needed.
When the water boils, salt it generously, add the ravioli, and boil until they float and are cooked through, usually just 1 or 2 minutes. Drain immediately and, while still hot, toss with a big spoonful of the pesto. Allow the pesto to soak in a bit. Then add another 1/2 cup / 120 milliliters of the pesto along with most of the black olives. Toss well, but gently, and then decide whether you want to add more pesto.
Turn everything out into a large bowl or platter and sprinkle with the remaining olives, pepitas and flowers. Serve warm or at room temperature. Reserve the remaining pesto for tossing with leftovers.