Sunday, March 31, 2024

Lucy Knisley's "Mom's Pesto" Cream Tortellini for Cook The Books Feb/March Pick, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

It's Cook the Books time again. For February/March, we read Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley hosted by Simona of briciole.

Publisher's Blurb:

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe―many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions. 

A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, 
Relish is a graphic novel for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product.

(April 2013)

This was a reread for me but it had been about seven years, so it was nice to catch up with this fun foodie graphic novel. I love Knisley's illustrations--they really capture the essence of the food and the colors are so appealing. I think her memories growing up are easily relatable whether cooking and eating with family, friends, or while during travel. It's not to be read on an empty stomach! Although I read graphic novels on occasion and enjoy this format, I find Relish especially accessible if you are new to the genre or it isn't a favorite. 

This book is a about foodie inspiration from cookies to mushrooms, Sangria to sushi rolls, there's a little something in the book for all appetites. 

I have been craving pesto so I decided to make her "Mom's Pesto" recipe in the book. Knisley gives a host of ideas for using the pesto but I decided to make it into a slightly creamy sauce for cheese tortellini and add grape tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, grated parmesan, and my new favorite thing, Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese Bites (little round pieces of Boursin cheese). 

I used the recipe sketch in the book as a guide even though pesto is pretty common and easy to make. I don't usually use both Romano and parmesan cheese in my pesto and I often switch out pine nuts for other nuts. To me, getting the balance of salt and olive oil right and using the freshest basil possible is what makes for good pesto. 

To Make the Dish:

Once I had the pesto made, I cooked my tortellini (from the refrigerated section of my local grocery store) while I made the cream sauce by adding a little butter to a small sauce pan and then about 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream. and heat until hot but not boiling. Stir in about 1/3 cup of the pesto, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese and about 2 Tbsp of the pasta cooking water and stir until smooth. Add the drained tortellini and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle cherry tomatoes, Boursin bites, another sprinkle of parmesan and small fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy warm, so the pasta slightly melts the Boursin and parmesan. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I really loved the pesto in the cream sauce and I am happy I have pesto left over for toast and salad dressing too. 

The deadline for this round is today (surprise, surprise) but if you like food and books, and foodie books, join us for April/May when we will be reading Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge hosted by yours truly!

Happy Reading, Cooking & Eating!


  1. I quite enjoyed Knisley's drawing style, particularly how she presents the recipes. Very nice idea for using the fresh pesto! Thank you for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books Club :)

  2. I love pesto too and have never used Romano but I will in the future.

  3. Pesto can be so fun to eat and this looks yummy as well


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