1980’s Flashback

by | Sep 3, 2011 | Recipes, Sauces

Last week I was flipping through channels looking for a movie to watch. I caught the tail end of one of my favorite movies from the 80’s, St. Elmo’s Fire, which was cast with the popular actors of the time. Think Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy. Watching that movie reminded me of the things I loved about the 80’s–the big hair, the music, Miami Vice, California Wine Coolers sold in the 2-liter plastic bottles like soda, Rick Springfield, Ray Ban and Vuarnet sunglasses, Gucci purses, think Rob Lowe again . . . . and the list goes on.  Some of the foods that became popular during the 80’s were blackened fish, buffalo wings, potato skins, ranch dressing, quiche, sun-dried tomatoes, sushi, mud pie, seven layer salad, and goat cheese (yuck) on salads and pizza.

My friends and me (that’s me in the middle) toasting the bride and groom with our California Wine Coolers at a 1980’s wedding

One weekend in the late 80’s some of my friends (those California Wine Cooler drinking friends above) and I went to Napa for a wine tasting weekend. Being the wine connoisseurs that we were (remember the wine coolers), I think we probably tasted all of the sweet pink White Zin that Napa had to offer. 

While in Napa we went to a restaurant in an old brick building that had a line of people out the door waiting to get in. When we finally did get seated, it was late and the restaurant was nearly sold out of everything on the menu. What they did have left was the special. I had never heard of the special before and it was on the menu in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, which happened to be that day. I don’t remember what the server told me that sold me on trying the pasta with the green sauce, which would have been outside of my comfort zone, but after that night the sauce became one of my all-time favorite sauces. The first bite of my pesto and pasta, covered with walnuts and chicken was incredible. At that time my hometown of Livermore was restaurant-challenged and I was afraid that night would be the first and last time I would ever eat pesto. Never fear, pesto would become more and more popular through the 80’s and 90’s. I would even be able to purchase frozen pesto at Safeway. Armanino frozen pesto in the blue box is my favorite frozen pesto.

I’ve mentioned before that I love the smell of fresh basil and I usually have some growing in my garden. I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe’s in the late spring, planted it in my garden, and it is now huge and still has plenty of leaves on it. Well, basil just happens to be the main ingredient of pesto. So last week, after watching St. Elmo’s Fire, I made some pesto for the family for dinner. A few nights later one of my friends was coming over for dinner and instead of running to the store for meat, I made another batch of pesto. Before the month is over, I hope to have made a batch or two more of pesto to freeze.

Here’s the recipe I used for my pesto.

Basil Pesto

 – Makes one cup of pesto


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


If  you’ve picked your basil fresh from your garden, make sure you rinse it well and be on the lookout for critters.

Fresh basil from the garden, rinsed and critter free

In a food processor, combine the basil with the pine nuts (or walnuts). Add the garlic, pulse a few times. Add the olive oil and combine. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until everything is well blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Pine nuts

All pesto ingredients blended well

Pesto mixed with pasta and ready to serve

To serve with pasta: Cook one pound of pasta according to the directions on package. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the pesto until all of the pasta is well coated. If the pasta has cooled down, put the pot on medium high heat until the pesto and pasta is heated.  Remove the pasta from the pot into a serving dish. Top with grated parmesan cheese and pine nuts (or walnuts). 

Other serving ideas:

Add grilled chicken:  Add bite sized pieces of grilled chicken into the pasta and pesto.

Add broccoli:  During the last two minutes of boiling the pasta, add bite sized pieces of broccoli to the pot. Drain the broccoli with the pasta and cover with the pesto. This is the method I used to get my girls to eat broccoli when they were toddlers.

Healthy eating: Use whole wheat pasta for extra fiber and other healthy benefits, which include lower blood pressure and reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.