16 • The Beacon August 4 , 2022
Summer is the perfect time for some homemade pesto
Sandra brought a brown grocery sack filled with bright green leaves into the Chili Crossroads Church kitchen . “ Would you like to make some pesto ?” She asked .
The leaves smelled fresh and faintly like licorice , basil . I ’ d never made pesto before . It came in a small jar from the grocery store in my world .
“ I ’ ve made pesto with my kids for years ,” Sandra said . We ’ d been friends and neighbors for a few years . She volunteered tirelessly at the church .
My family had worked all day getting ready for an upcoming event so a pesto break sounded great . I called my kids into the kitchen . My son , Jamie , peeled garlic cloves . My daughter , Amanda , chopped walnuts .
Sandra didn ’ t use pine nuts in her pesto . She used walnuts and pumpkin seeds . She said the combination would cure all ills .
She loved preparing nourishing meals for family and friends . Every Wednesday she would make lunch for us .
Sandra added garlic to the food processor . She put in handfuls of walnut , pumpkin seeds and some salt . “ Pulsing helps to blend the ingredients without pulverizing them ,” she said .
She added handfuls of basil , then streamed in the olive oil . Grated Parmesan cheese was the finishing touch .
The resulting green sauce screamed summer bounty . I grabbed a spoon and tasted . The pesto was bright , herby , garlicky and rich from the cheese and oil .
“ We should make stuffed shells tonight ,” Sandra said .
How could I not agree to such inspiration ? She mixed ricotta cheese and freshly made pesto . We boiled the pasta , then stuffed the shells . We spread tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish , layered on the shells and covered them with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese . We baked the shells , then brought them steaming to the table . My kids and Neal gobbled them up . Sandra ’ s eyes shone .
Several years later , Sandra got sick . In the ensuing months , she struggled with cancer . Our church got to know her own children even more as they gathered to comfort her during what we shockingly learned would be her last months on earth . When it came time to have her celebration of life service , we decided to make her pesto stuffed shells for the dinner . Her family and friends traveled from near and far . That first bite of the creamy pasta brought me back to the table with Sandra . I imagined her smile as we enjoyed this delicious recipe .
C o n s i d e r m a k i n g pesto soon and these stuffed shells . It ’ s a great way to enjoy summer ’ s bounty .
4 cloves garlic , crushed 6 cups gently packed basil leaves 1 / 4 cup roughly chopped walnuts 1 / 4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
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