Sunday, April 24, 2022

Rogier's Green Pasta Recipe

Luigi Nanni died in April 1998, which probably means nothing to you, but Nanni was the proprietor of Restaurant Nanni, on East 46th, corner Lexington Avenue, and given I worked in Greenwich in the 80's it was one place that was convenient for lunch in the city, coming into Grand Central. Nanni was a center of serious Italian cuisine in the city. The death of Mr. Nanni was certainly an event, written up here by my friend Bryan Miller, who was then the restaurant critic for the New York Times.

One of my favorites was angel hair with pesto sauce. 

After the death of Mr Nanni, it lived on for a while, run by Vittorio, the old maitre d' and the cook, but they did not seem to have a happy partnership and a few years ago it all fell apart.

In any case, ever since I committed to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet, one of the biggest challenges was what to do for a pesto sauce. For the longest time, I was resigned to the idea that I would never again have angel hair with pesto sauce. Until one day recently, my #WFPB-friend and associate Enrica Sacca in Queens gave me the idea of making a pesto sauce based on sweet peas. Creativity took over and the result blew me away. It was better than the original. Since then, I've now made it three times and I think I've got the recipe down pat, and I think it will be a house favorite for a long time to come. 

There does seem to be an unwritten law that pesto sauce is served over angel hair, so angel hair is now sold out in my neighborhood. Normally, I buy Luigi Vitelli's Whole Wheat Pasta Capellini, but nobody had that, except one package, so I had to settle for Ronzoni, who apparently are Italian in name only, and don't have an Italian bone in their body and they just call it "thin spaghetti." Another marketing opportunity missed. 

So, here goes. This is simple as can be - about 30 minutes for a delicious home made sauce.


1/4 cup of walnut pieces with some pine nuts

1 15 Oz can of green peas

1 bunch of basil

1 bunch of spinach

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced, or at least sliced thin.

1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 cup water

1 tsp Yondu

Optional: sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and, if you blend in one jalapeƱo pepper, nobody will notice it, but it will pick the whole thing up a notch, some vegan parmesan


In your blender:
- add the 1/4 cup of nuts
- add the basil leaves, washed (sandy!)
- drain the peas and add them on top of the basil
- in a frying pan cook the spinach with the garlic, adding the cup of water with Yondu
- as soon as the spinach is wilted, put the spinach in the blender
- add the cooking water from the spinach.
- puree

This quantity is enough for 4 people.

Cook the angel hair - 3 mins.
- The sauce will probably still be too thick, so you can add some cooking water from the pasta to make it more liquid - I use about 1-2 cups of it.

If you want to get fancy, you can cut up some sun-dried tomatoes in small pieces, and add those in the sauce, and I like making it with cherry tomatoes.
At your option, you can add some vegan parmesan.

Finger-licking good. I can't stop eating it.

Obviously, this is a very healthy sauce and you can make a meal out of this, I like it with mushrooms and some vegetable, be it broccoli or zucchini, or steamed carrots go really well because of the color combination: the green pasta, the orange carrots (with some parsley) and the red cherry tomatoes.

P.S. In the interest of science I tried regular angel hair with Pesto Sauce recently, and realized that now I cannot imagine why I ever liked that oily sauce. You just lose your taste for it.

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