Confession: this is a copycat recipe from Noodles and Co. You probably know it as Pesto Cavatappi – but they trademarked that ish, which means my title is forced to a bit more creative.
We didn’t get Noodles and Co. unless we went up to Chicagoland when we lived in Illinois, and there isn’t one here, either. But I was craving some good ol’ pesto-y cavatappi-y goodness the other day. So I figured, who needs Noodles and Co.? Have pesto, will eat. Or something like that.
I actually didn’t even Google a recipe before I threw this together to make sure I was getting it “right.” Only after I’d eaten it all did I think to check my accuracy with the great collective knowledge of the interwebs. Turns out, a lot of copycat recipes out there use cream and butter, but I think they’re totally unnecessary.
If you want a creamier sauce, go for it – but I think pesto is pretty perfect all by itself. I made my own pesto by swapping basil for the arugula in my favorite arugula pesto and adding a handful of toasted pine nuts to the mix.
I actually stock up on basil during the summer when I can, either basil I’ve grown myself or (far more likely, because I kill plants) from farmers in the area who are drowning in the stuff at the end of the season. Then I go on a pesto-making spree and keep it in the freezer in small containers (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per container) so I can pull some out whenever I want pesto macaroni and cheese or this amazing chicken pesto pizza.
Anywho. This pasta. It’s my favorite not just because it’s easy and super delicious, but because it tastes like home. There’s a Noodles and Co. across the street from a four-story bookstore called Powell’s (which is only the best place in the history of the world and if you aren’t familiar with it you should get yourself to Portland and go there immediately).
In high school, as friends and I started getting our licenses and the freedom that came with them, Powell’s was the most exciting place to go. Probably because their parking garage is straight up TREACHEROUS, and we found having to honk our horns and flash our lights every time we went around a narrow corner really exciting.
Also because it’s the most magical place on earth.
Better than Disneyland. You heard it here first.
Unless you’re from Portland. In which case you probably already knew.
Somehow, Noodles and Co. became part of our Powell’s routine. I’m not sure why, exactly – I have a vague memory of inheriting the tradition from a friend’s family, but I also remember plenty of times where we went just to have somewhere else to go that wasn’t home to our parents’ houses and homework and RESPONSIBILITY AAH!
Even when friends scattered for college, and then scattered even farther for real life, Powell’s + Noodles and Co. was a distinctive slice of home. And because I’m boring and hate change, I got the Pesto Cavatappi. Every. Single. Time. Still do. Why mess with a good thing, right?
And folks, this pasta is a very, very good thing. Just a handful of simple ingredients. Ready in under 30 minutes. Delicious. Eat it and think of home. Or at least think of how tasty it is.
What food makes you think of home? Let me know in the comments!
- 1 lb. cavatappi pasta
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups sliced baby portobello or white button mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- ¼ cup fresh pesto
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ fresh shredded parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente in very salty water.
- While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and mushrooms to oil and sauté until fragrant and browned, about 2 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, and tomatoes to skillet and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes, until pasta is ready.
- Stir pesto into skillet until combined.
- Add drained pasta to skillet and toss to coat with pesto. Taste and add seasonings if necessary.
- Serve immediately and top with fresh parmesan cheese for garnish.