Pasta Salad with Pepita Spinach Pesto

pesto pasta salad

Happy Father's Day, everyone.  We had some beautiful prayers at church this morning about loving and appreciating the good fathers in our lives and forgiving the ones who failed.  Whatever your story tonight, I hope you had a peaceful day.

It just occurred to me that some of you don't know my husband Yancey.  I mention him all over the place and just assume you know what a stellar man, father, and husband he is.  It is so easy for me to celebrate Father's Day with him around.  I'm a good mother, but he was born to be a father.  We started dating when we were 17, and even then, he would talk about having kids and all the things he couldn't wait to do with them.  He is one of the most in-the-moment people I've ever known, and children know this.  Wherever we've gone, whatever our age or stage of life, kids flock to him.  Is that sexy or what?  I hold court with the adults on whatever topic is fascinating me at the moment (usually food) while he is off organizing a game somewhere.  When we were in high school, two things attracted me to him above all else:  1) He declined plans on weekends to babysit his sister and 2) He tutored developmentally delayed students, and they would hang out at his locker between classes.  Happy Father's Day, babe.  I love you more than all the food blogs in the world.


And, of course, I can't post on Father's Day without talking about my dad.  I was born on Father's Day, and he loves to tell me how he stayed up the night I was born, wallpapering the closet that my crib was in.  And how he used to sing, "She's Sarah Kathleen, she's the world's smallest queen, she's quite the gal.  She can sit on Papa's knees, she can play with Papa's keys, she's quite the gal."  Except I was, by no means, little.  I was spherical, just like my kids were when they were babies.  But he loved my chubby self from babyhood onward in the most devoted, with-abandon way a father ever could.  In high school, he used to pick me up once a week in his 1959 Rambler American and we'd go on a date.  Usually to Tony's Coffee for a coffee milkshake.  He'd pull out his Italian leather coin purse and always had enough for whatever I wanted.  Happy Fathers Day, Papa.  I love you more than all the coffee milkshakes in the world.

Finally, the recipe.  We went to the station for the first time tonight and all the families were invited for a Father's Day BBQ. Delicious food--grilled flank steak, a few beautiful salads, perfect fruit.  I cleaned out my fridge today (it's Sunday!) and couldn't believe I actually had enough to make something.  The inventory:

  • spinach
  • kefir cheese (a kind of Middle Eastern sour cream)
  • tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella
  • pecorino
  • two small zucchinis
  • basil from my garden
  • pasta
  • pepitas from the freezer

So, a pasta salad with spinach pesto, some basil thrown in for flavor.  The sort of thing I'll likely be bringing to BBQ's and picnics all summer.  Nothing jaw-dropping, but definitely delicious, and I used up every bit in the fridge (along with the carrot soup I made, but more on that later).


I can't really describe what it was like to finally get a tour of the station.  It's the first time the kids and I have been there.  We saw Yancey's dorm room, the lights that flash in the middle of the night when there's a call, the ambulance he's been driving, boots and gear waiting for live bodies just like they show on TV.  Loretta kept covering her ears just in case a loud noise ensued (she is very sensitive to noise), and Wyatt could not be stopped.  Climbing into the engine and ladder trucks, inspecting each piece of equipment.  A six-year-old's dream.  Yet another reason to celebrate this Father's Day.  Who would have guessed that we'd go from junior prom to this love-filled, dream-fulfilling 14 years together (and almost 20 since we first started dating!). Okay. Here's the recipe.  I hope you get to share it with someone you love.

Pasta Salad with Pepita Spinach Pesto
You could use just spinach here, though it won't have as good a flavor.  If you do that, throw in a little more garlic and cheese.  And you can use other kinds of nuts (pepitas were what I had around) or no nuts at all.  Use EITHER nuts or cheese, if you can, or you won't have anything to bind it together.

4 big handfuls fresh spinach
1 c. fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. pepitas (or walnuts, pine nuts, etc.)
1/4 c. finely grated parmesan or pecorino
3 Tb. olive oil
3/4 c. sour cream
1 lb. pasta (fuselli, bowties, penne)
4 small tomatoes (Campari or Roma) cut into manageable wedges
1/2 lb. fresh mozarella, torn into chunks if it's the big kind 
2 small zucchini, cut into paper-thin rounds (preferably in a food processor)
Extra basil leaves, olive oil, pecorino, freshly ground pepper, and pepitas for the top

Combine first 7 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Combine with sour cream and set aside.

Boil pasta in lots of boiling, salted water.  When it's 1 minute away from being done, throw in the zucchini.  Drain the pasta and zucchini together, and run cold water over.

In a big bowl, toss pasta/zucchini mixture with pesto/sour cream mixture and a little bit of the mozzarella and tomatoes.  I just use my hands.  Top with the rest of the tomatoes and mozzarella, then garnish with a few more fresh basil leaves, some pecorino or parmesan shavings (use a vegetable peeler), a few more pepitas, and a drizzle of your best olive oil.  Sprinkle some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper over.