Milk Street Crazy Noodles (Ep 112)


Peruvian Pesto (Tallarines Verde)

Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

FOR BRIGHT AND FRESH, flavor we pureed ¾ pound of spinach for this pesto. A quick simmer in a skillet took the raw edge off the onion and spinach, giving a depth and complexity lacking in traditional raw pestos. Parmesan and a splash of cream enriched the dish and a healthy squeeze of lime juice tied everything together.


  • 12 ounces linguine or fettuccine
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • Lime wedges, to serve


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just tender but not fully cooked, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1½ cups of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the onion, oil, ¼ cup water, garlic and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add a third of the spinach and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining spinach in 2 batches, processing until smooth after each.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water and return to a simmer, then add the pasta and stir to coat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente and the pesto no longer appears watery, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the queso fresco and serve with lime wedges.

Don’t be alarmed if the skillet seems very full after adding the pasta. Use tongs to gently lift and stir the noodles, and a rubber spatula to scrape the edges of the pan.

Soba with Miso Butter and Asparagus

Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

MOST SOBA NOODLES COOK in 4 minutes. For noodles that need a longer cooking time, adjust the timing for adding the asparagus. Assembling and preparing all of the ingredients before cooking the noodles was essential to properly timing the recipe. While the soba cooks, heat the skillet, then fry the eggs while tossing the noodles with the miso butter. Asparagus stalks that measured about ½ inch at the thick end were best. Pencil-thin asparagus overcooked and thicker, woody stalks required peeling. We liked a sprinkle of shichimi to garnish over the finished dish; the Asian rice seasoning, made from sesame seeds and chili flakes, lent crunch and heat.


  • 1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 5 tablespoons white miso
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 1½ tablespoons finely grated
  • fresh ginger
  • 12 ounces soba noodles
  • 3 scallions, minced, plus thinly sliced scallions to garnish
  • 4 fried eggs
  • Shichimi to garnish rice seasoning, to serve (optional)
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, snap or cut off the tender tips of the asparagus. Set aside. Slice the stalks on the bias into ½-inch pieces. Set aside separately. In a large bowl, combine the miso, butter and ginger, stirring and mashing.

Add the noodles to the boiling water. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the asparagus stalks and cook for another minute. Add the tips, then cook for 2 minutes. Drain the noodles and asparagus, reserving ½ cup cooking water. The noodles should be just tender. Add the noodles, asparagus and minced scallions to the miso butter. Add enough reserved cooking water to reach a creamy consistency, using tongs to toss until the butter melts and coats the noodles.

Divide the noodles between 4 serving bowls and top each with a fried egg. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and shichimi to garnish, if using. Serve with lemon wedges.

Don’t add salt to the soba cooking water. While we usually salt our pasta water, miso can be quite salty and sodium levels vary widely by brand. Skipping the salt gave us better control over seasoning.

Trapanese Pesto

Start to finish: 25 minutes
Serves 4

 WE HEAR “PESTO” and see shades of green, but the word refers to prep, not pigment. It stems from pestare, to pound— this Italian sauce traditionally was made with a mortar and pestle. The basil-heavy, and therefore green, version we know best comes from northwestern Italy. In Sicily, you’ll find pesto Trapanese (named for the town of Trapani), a sauce also known as mataroccu. It has less basil than the northern version and adds tomatoes, garlic and almonds, the latter a nod to Sicily’s Arabic heritage. To make this a truly year-round recipe we ruled out standard winter tomatoes and instead settled on cherry tomatoes, though grape or small plum tomatoes worked, too. on cherry tomatoes, though grape or small plum tomatoes worked, too. For ease, we used a food processor, though we found it was best to incorporate the olive oil or cheese (pecorino) by hand at the end. Raw almonds are common, but we found them a little dull. When we toasted them, however, we were wowed by how they brought out the sweetness of the tomato, added a crispier crunch and improved the balance of the dish. We preferred blanched, slivered almonds, which were easiest to toast and grind, but any variety is fine.


  • 4 ounces slivered almonds (about 1 cup), toasted
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • ¾ ounce fresh basil leaves (1 cup lightly packed)
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated pecorino Romano cheese (1⁄2 cup), plus more to serve
  • 12 ounces short, sturdy pasta, such as gemelli, casarecce or rigatoni
  • Ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the almonds, garlic and pepper flakes. Process until coarsely ground, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil and 3⁄4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until uniformly ground but still chunky, 10 to 12 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil and cheese.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the bowl with the pesto and toss. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Taste and season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and more cheese.

Don’t add the cooking water to the sauce right away. While we always reserve some starchy cooking water before draining pasta, this sauce has so much moisture from the tomatoes that it wasn’t always necessary.

Pisco Sour

Start to finish: 5 minutes

Makes 2 drinks

THIS PERUVIAN STAPLE IS traditionally made with lime juice, but we preferred a brighter blend of lemon and lime. “Dry shaking” the cocktail with one ice cube (to seal the shaker) helps create the sour’s signature foam.


  • 3½ ounces pisco
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • Angostura bitters


In a cocktail shaker, combine the pisco, egg white, both juices and syrup. Add 1 ice cube and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice, then shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glasses and sprinkle 3 to 4 dashes of bitters over each.