My mom was born in April, putting her under the astrological sign of Aires.
If you know anything about astrology, then you’ll know that those born under the sign of Aires have pretty fiery tendencies, being head-strong, creative go-getters who don’t wait around for someone to tell them what to do. They’re extremely intelligent and if they understand something, see it, want it – they go for it.
It’s no mistake that the symbol of Aires is the “ram,” with curled horns ready to barrel into any new opponent, or challenge presented before them.
Now during the time of the Aires reign of the Zodiac, it also happens to be the very time of year that the Asparagus plant shoots forth and is ready to be harvested for those few short weeks in the spring. It seems fitting that asparagus would naturally sprout and flourish under the time of Aires as the plant itself carries many of the same characteristic of the astrological sign.
The stalks of asparagus, desiring the sun to grow, are some of the first vegetables to push through the hard and frozen earth, ramming their way through the permafrost to sprout and grow. It’s almost as if they know they are ready to grow and they’re not waiting around for the snow to melt or the ground to soften and invite them out.
So what does the sign of Aires and the vegetable asparagus really have to do with my mom? Well, she is an Aires and she LOVES asparagus, and last year, she demonstrated the perfect mix of these traits all in one particular dish.
Around the time of my mother’s birthday, her best friend took her out to lunch to a posh little restaurant downtown to celebrate. The restaurant is known for using local and in-season ingredients creatively combined into delectable dishes by an award-winning chef, a recent semi-finalist in the prestigious James Beard restaurant award.
On that particular lunch visit, my mom chose a pasta dish tossed in a perfect pesto sauce created from fresh spring peas and, you guessed it – asparagus.
For days my mother went on and on about this dish, how the asparagus was perfectly blended into a creamy sauce and yet there were pieces of precisely blanched asparagus, crisp to the bite and lending just the right amount of texture to an already exciting venture being experienced on the palate.
Being the Aires woman she is, and because she loved the dish so much, she knew she could just as easily recreate it herself. She didn’t need a culinary certificate from any high end institution or any distinctions from prestigious organizations.
She tasted it; she loved it; and she could make it.
This was not the first time my mother claimed to recreate some tasty plate of food, or some adorable craft she had seen. As an Aires woman, she’s been doing this her whole life. She is smart, creative and a powerhouse of confidence that catapults her forward with complete assurance that any idea in her head will result in something that is nothing less that absolutely spectacular. Asparagus and pea pasta was nothing she couldn’t handle.
And so that year, when our family all gathered together to celebrate my mom’s birthday, the main dish we all enjoyed was (of course) pasta with fresh asparagus and pea pesto – my mother’s own recipe that she had created. After weeks of hearing about how outrageously great the original dish had been, we were all happy to finally be able to taste a version of it ourselves.
I’ll never know if her dish tasted anything life the seemingly life-changing dish my mother had at the local restaurant, donning weeks of accolades at how perfect it tasted. But I do know that the dish my mom served us all that day was one of my favorites, because it reminded me so much of who my mom is, and to me that deserves lifetimes of accolades for how perfect she is to all of us.
Here is my mom’s recipe she created, or if you are an Aires, maybe you just want to go ahead and create your own!
Recipe: Spring Pea and Asparagus Pesto Pasta
- 1 pound (16 ounces) whole grain pasta (conchiglie, orecchiette, shells, fusilli or linguine will work)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 5 shallots, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thin crosswise
- 1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, woody ends snapped off, and cut in 1/2-inch slices on the bias
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen English peas (defrost peas if frozen)
- 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or regular Parmesan), plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from one lemon)
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (less than one lemon)
- 1 cup roughly chopped mixed herbs (I used flat-leaf Italian parsley, chives and mint, other suggestions include chervil and tarragon)
- 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- sea salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
First, prep your vegetables. Then bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta for two minutes less than the package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in your largest frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes).
Add the asparagus and garlic, season with salt, and cook until the asparagus is knife-tender and bright green (about 3 minutes). Stir in the peas and cook until the peas are bright green (about 2 minutes).
Remove ½ of the asparagus and pea mixture, place in blender or food processor with some of the pasta water, 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ¼ cup of pine nuts. Blend until smooth, pesto consistency.
Add the drained pasta to the pan along with 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat. Cook until the sauce starts to coat the pasta (about 2 minutes). Remove the pan from heat and transfer its contents to a large serving bowl. Add the pesto sauce, cheese and butter and stir to coat. (Add more pasta water as needed. The sauce should just cling to the pasta.)
Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, herbs and pine nuts. Taste and adjust seasonings as required (add a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and/or a squeeze of lemon juice if desired). Grate some cheese over the top and garnish with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.