Broccoli Kale Basil Arugula Pesto (Quadruple Pesto), and a Tribute of a Sort

Before I get to this Quadruple Pesto, I need to talk about a few things.

About two weeks ago, the Sunday after the bombings in Boston, I started to think about life in a whole new perspective.  It’s not a perspective I might follow, just errant thoughts, pondering, and weighing options.

These thoughts led to my remembering an old friend, someone who was there for me through thick and thin for many years, as I was for her. She had some issues that were alarming at times, so much so that I found myself subtly pulling away from her bit by bit, a slow, torturous break-up.  She was starting to scare me, and I told her so many times.  She would just laugh wickedly.

Fettuccine with Cheesy Garlic Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto

Soon life took us in different directions, and our once solid-ice friendship thawed to a drip-drop.  We spoke one more time about 4 years ago, catching up and such.  I could tell she wanted to renew our friendship, but I had my own problems and didn’t think I could handle hers at the same time.

After the bombings, I started to think about people from my past, really good people.  Despite her issues, she was one of them.  I knew she had moved, but I’d lost her new number, so I decided to look her up online.  She had to have a facebook, twitter, or something since she was the epitome of social . She loved to talk, so there was just no way she wasn’t partaking, at least to some degree, in online chatter, connecting, and reconnecting

There are not many moments more jarring than clicking ‘search’ for a former friend and the first thing that comes up is an obituary.

I stared at the search result in shock, for what felt like an eternity.  I didn’t want to open it because it was definitely her, and opening it would confirm it; make it real.  I was almost begging it to go away, trying to reach deep for some kind of spiritual system restore to erase the moment or bring her back.  I had yet to hear of anyone in my age group, whom I know or used to know, dying, especially someone I was once close with.

Actually, that’s not accurate.

A classmate died in a car accident my senior year of high school, but I was too young to really grasp the situation, or ratherwant to fully realize it at such a tender age.  We’re all immortal at 17 and 18; we were all going to live forever.  His death was a fluke, right?

Garlicky Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto

I recall that the night before his death he gave his girlfriend a hickey and it never went away.  We would rub it to make sure she wasn’t putting makeup on it, but it was spooky real, and up until the last time I saw her, maybe Thanksgiving homecoming during my freshman year of college, it was still there and couldn’t be rubbed off.

I digress.

I knew exactly how she died before I opened the obituary. I took a deep breath and clicked on it.

She took her own life, just as I’d thought. It didn’t actually say ‘suicide’ or ‘took her own life’, but the request for where donations be made in her name confirmed it. She was never suicidal, or so I thought, but with her mental health issues, once I saw the obituary, I didn’t even consider an accident or disease of some sort. I just knew.

She died last December.

I saw she had a facebook page, so I clicked over to it.  It’s mostly public, so I could see pretty much all of her wall and photos.  She was posting a lot two days before her death, long paragraphs in response to simple greetings or statements, using a lot of capital letters and exclamation points (Hi, Ashlee!).  She was manic.  I’d seen it many times in person and heard it too many times over the phone.  I could hear the rise and fall of her voice through the text.

Since learning of her death, I’ve spoken to some who knew her, including her ex-boyfriend who is a friend of mine, and through whom we met.  A lot of them say; she was gorgeous, why would she kill herself?  

Fettuccine with Cheesy Garlic Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto

They don’t understand.  Yeah, she was gorgeous, but she didn’t care.  Looks don’t trump or fix mental anguish; looks are surface.  Beneath her hard-boiled exterior was a soft-boiled core, and undoubtedly, something or someone aggressively dipped into that soft core one too many times. Her demons were not all imagined.

After the horrific bombings in Boston, which hit close to home because I went to college in Boston, just a hop, skip and jump from Boylston street, and now this, I was spent emotionally.

Boylston street was where I spent many a late afternoon/early evening studying at the Boston Public Library when I couldn’t find the books or information I needed at my university library.  Afterwards, I would reward myself with a shopping spree and sometimes dinner alone at a cafe or nice restaurant, basking in my new found grownup independence and relishing alone time without feeling lonely.

I felt a a range of emotions about the bombings, from anger to sadness.  I almost wanted to personally hurt the bombers, maim them in some way, like they did to the surviving victims  Then I felt guilt, guilt that my friend took her life.  What if I hadn’t backed out of our friendship and was there to talk to her or be with her that night? Could have I prevented it in some way?

Okay, so I’m all over the place in this post, and the thought of food paired with such sadness seems a little crude, huh? Well it isn’t, and I’ll tell you why. Food is comfort when bad or sad times arise.  It’s customary to bring food to those who have lost a loved one, so this is my offering. This pesto is a tribute to my old friend and to those who lost loved ones in the bombings.

Quadruple Pesto! Broccoli, Kale, Arugula, and Basil Pesto with Extra Garlic and Cheese. This is the most flavorful pesto you will ever have! Even pesto haters love this pesto!Great with all kinds of pasta; love it on spaghetti!

Every night, no matter what time I got home, or even if I was asleep, she would call once her boyfriend, soon to be husband, hit the sack.  She never slept at night; she couldn’t.  She took her slumbers during the day when it was safe, the daylight a wall of protection, temporarily eradicating her dark inner demons. When late, late darkness fell, and the moon winked goodnight to our part of the world, she needed company, so I always answered the phone, no matter how exhausted I was.  We would chat about anything and everything for hours.  She wanted to learn to cook and would occasionally ask me to explain certain recipes and the terms in them; the techniques all unfamiliar to her.

She loved pesto, and one summer night while sitting in her backyard talking to me, she inhaled a basil plant in the garden and told me she was dying for pesto at that moment.  I can still hear her, in between drags of her cigarette;

“Oh, man, what I wouldn’t do for a plate of pasta and pesto right now.  I need to learn to effin’ cook.” But she didn’t say ‘effin’, I’m just keeping it clean here.

Since she slept all day, 2 am was right about dinner time.

I told her she could easily make pesto and took her through it on the phone, step-by-step, giving her a basic pesto recipe using the basil in her yard  Thankfully, she could boil pasta, so it was a win for her and a win for me, because it soothed her enough to let me go back to sleep.

Fettuccine with Cheesy Garlic Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto

The Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto (Quadruple Pesto) recipe below stems from a cookbook review I did for The Daring Kitchen back in 2009.  The photos are from 2009 too, but over the years I’ve played with the recipe, which was a basil pesto with roasted pistachios, and tweaked it (well, changed it, really) with lots of additions and subtractions. To me, it’s perfection; the best pesto I’ve ever tasted.  I call it Quadruple Pesto because it’s a mix of broccoli, kale, arugula and basil. I wish my friend was still here so I could give her this quadruple pesto recipe.  She would have loved it.

RIP, Mandy.

Broccoli Kale Arugula Pesto (Quadruple Pesto)

Broccoli Basil Kale Arugula Pesto (Quadruple Pesto) Fettuccine
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1½ to 2 cups pesto ; 4 to 6 servings pasta
  • ½ lb broccoli florets, steamed for 6 minutes until very tender but still bright greent.(if you don't like broccoli, substitute 1 cup more kale, or basil, or arugula) UPDATE - SEE NOTES *
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh kale (blanch it, then dry it, for more flavor)
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh arugula
  • ⅔ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts OR ½ cup walnut halves, toasted, OR ½ cup shelled and toasted pistachios OR a combination of all THREE nuts to equal ½ cup, OR TWO out of THREE of the nuts to equal ½ cup.
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (If you're serving it over pasta..use the pasta water)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • About 1 pound fettuccine or pasta of your choice
  1. Cook the pasta in salted water, boiling until al dente, then drain, setting aside 1 cup of the pasta water. If you're roasting the broccoli (see notes), do this as the pasta is cooking. If you're steaming the broccoli, also do this while the pasta is cooking. Let broccoli cool.
Make the pesto
  1. Place the first 8 ingredients in a food processor (or you can do it the old-fashioned, arm and wrist straining way - a large mortar and pestle. I do it that way occasionally. I swear it tastes better). Pulse to a thick paste.
  2. With the motor running fully, slowly drizzle through the feed tube the ¾ cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons pasta water. Process until smooth. Season pesto to taste with salt and peppe, then toss the pasta with the pesto. You can make this pesto 2 days ahead. Pour a thin layer of oil over pesto; cover and chill.
  3. If serving along side something, like a dip or a topping for fish or meat, drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
* I now prefer to roast the broccoli instead of steaming it. SO much more flavor. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and oil a baking sheet. Spread the broccoli on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.Roast about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the florets are kind of crispy at the tops. Let them cool, then proceed with recipe.
Quadruple Pesto with Extra Garlic and Cheese. This is the most flavorful pesto you will ever have! Even pesto haters love this pesto!

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45 Responses to Broccoli Kale Basil Arugula Pesto (Quadruple Pesto), and a Tribute of a Sort

  1. Rosa Mayland says:

    A beautiful post and tribute.

    This is one fabulous and exquisite pesto! So flavorful.



  2. Laura says:

    That is a sad story, and what ifs are dangerous and you will get you nowhere. Thanks for sharing the story of your friend, too bad she wasn’t able to find help for her issues.

    Looking forward to making some pesto this summer.

  3. Oh my, what a shock it must have been indeed. I am so sorry about your loss, or friendship and of possible renewal. I know a few manic and bi-polar people. Thank god no ones has (successfully) done any harm to themselves. It really does make you think of your own life and role too. This is a beautiful tribute to her with one of her fave dishes.

  4. It’s really hard to predict a person’s true state of mind; and sometimes it’s just out of your control. So sad…I’m sure she would have loved this pesto; and in way, I bet she’s enjoying it now.

    I hope all my explanation points and caps aren’t indicative of a desperate state of mind, but rather my excitement. Sometimes, I read and hear bland, monotone responses in conversation and notes; and I just want to take them by the shoulders and shake them up a bit…but that’s just their personality.

    I’d simply love to have some of this amazing pesto…thanks for sharing (and letting me share)!

  5. What a beautiful post and pasta recipe. I know exactly what you mean by friends who need to drift apart. Sometimes its better for you that way, but that person always holds a special place in your heart. And its sad when you learn that person has passed.

  6. Suicide and the causes behind it are just awful things to deal with. It isn’t uncommon to want to protect yourself and often when personal issues get tough it is hard to focus on others. That is human nature. About all you can do is help educate others and to keep her memory alive with sentimental thoughts. Sounds like you are doing a good job with that. The pesto is definitely a winner in all regards.

  7. After so many years of little communication, it can be truly frightening how much people have changed. You express yourself beautifully my friend and thank you for sharing such a lovely recipe.

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Life can be so hard sometimes. This is a touching tribute though – a beautiful, simple recipe to share with loved ones.

  9. Megan says:

    I think this post is an important reminder to remember and treasure those who are important to us. My world was rattled that Monday. You never think things like that will happen to you, in your backyard. One of the things I think about most from that day, though, is all the people who called, texted, and messaged — just wanting to make sure we were OK.

  10. Crumbs of Love says:

    Hey Lis- I have actually been very quiet because one of my closest friends here in Calgary suddenly died last month. She was only 36 with two boys, 7 & 4 (he only turned 4 the week before. They still don’t even know why. It’s been very distressing….

  11. Winnie says:

    This dish simply looks AMAZING !!
    You have no idea how much I love basil (and pesto), and although it’s after 1AM, I’m already hungry after looking at these photos!

  12. johanna says:

    oh, yeah. it’s a tough one, that suicide. I had a friend do the same thing in a similar situation as your post. although it happened at the same time we were in grad school, when i was in touch with the person, not later. it leaves a hole in the universe that feels deeper (to me, at least) than other ‘forms of death’.
    that ”i could have done this or that to prevent it” is an easy and fruitless road to go on; we are ultimately not responsible and cannot prevent suicide for someone who truly wants to die–tough as that sounds. that is what i was told and it didn’t help much–

    on a brighter note–that pesto truly IS BRIGHT and lovely! and a beautiful tribute in every way. it’s also soooooo seasonal right now!! i am going to make it tomorrow!! we just happen to have walnuts leftover from last fall’s harvest to use in it and basil in our garden waiting to be snipped. 🙂
    although i think cashews might have a richer taste– 😛

    • Lisa says:

      johanna- I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been if I had still been close with her. Last night I felt a sudden emptiness when I realized I would never have the option of talking to her again. Funny how it took three weeks for that to set in. Thanks for your sweet comment xo

      • johanna says:

        yeah, it does take a while for things to set in–and more will come up. suicide is such a horrific act–
        other living beings, like dogs and horses, will also choose to die on occasion, but it is almost always about missing their animal friend or human owner, or they are truly too ill to live; it is not a will to die on their own. that is something i think only humans have the capacity for. perhaps it is truly unnatural (as opposed to dying of old age or disease) and that’s why it never feels resolved and there’s always that empty/hollow/sad feeling around it. Anyway, your tributes to your friend are healing and lovely. your memories of her will help heal her spirit, if there is such a thing.

  13. themadhausfrau says:

    What a sad story. What a gorgeous pesto. What a beautiful heartfelt post.

  14. Oh Lisa, I can’t even imagine what a shock it was to find that obituary. In so sorry for your loss. Despite the distance of the friendship and how you’d drifted apart, it still must be so difficult to receive that news. This post and beautiful pesto are a wonderful tribute to your dear troubled friend. Lovely.

  15. Shelley C says:

    Oh, Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, because even when you drift apart, friends forever have a place in your heart. I think this post is a lovely tribute to her, and I bet you were a real comfort to her those nights.

  16. So simple yet so flavourful! A great pesto recipe, Lisa.

  17. Stacy says:

    I can only imagine that heart-stopping moment when you first saw the search results. Painful, painful. Your tribute and pesto are both beautiful.

  18. Such an honest post Lisa. When someone dies young, or even not so young but not of old age, it´s always dramatic, because it´s always unexpected. Add to that a personal decision and it´s heart wrenching to realize how unbearable life is for some. It always makes us grow. This is a lovely tribute my friend.

  19. jamie says:

    I often find it totally impossible to comprehend a death. Especially of a loved one or close friend. There really isn’t much we can do to change the course of things. Sadly. But it sounds like you were there until, well, until you couldn’t be there anymore. And knowing you stayed up until the wee hours talking her through pasta with pesto is lovely. I, for one, am glad to have you for a friend. And the pesto is perfect. This really is a soothing, comforting dish. (and your photos on white are beautiful!)

  20. Dan says:

    A wonderful tribute to your friend and my condolences to you as well; especially finding out in such a heart wrenching way. Amazing how the tragedy in Boston lead you to find your friend and ultimately this tribute with you pesto. Nice job!

  21. cake duchess says:

    so sad to read, Lisa. I was with a friend yesterday from high school and we reminisced about stories and some painful things were brought up (thinks she never shared before)and I was taken back in time. Your pasta is a sweet tribute to your friend and looks incredible.

  22. Beautiful tribute, Lisa Michelle, and a sad, sad, story.
    Big tight hug; feel it?

  23. Suz says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend, Lisa. This is a lovely tribute to her & a wonderful story about how food and cooking can bring comfort.

  24. maris61 says:

    Clever recipe…Never thought of marrying the two classic flavors into a natural pesto. Mmm…I’d finish off and swab that bowl with a hard piece of Eye-talian bread. No soap needed. FWIW, many folks endure personal hardships and pain, but we all must ultimately seek and find our respective solutions. Life is tragedy but also blessings. ITMT don’t ever discount the positive vibes, warmth, and love YOU have conferred upon readers of your blog, be it a bad day, week, month, or year. Thank you for helping make my day that much brighter with your unique humor and personality. Sharing food and humor is also sharing love.

    • Lisa says:

      As amazing comment, Jimmysan. Thank YOU for always knowing exactly what to say to make my days brighter!

  25. Lana says:

    Lisa, I almost felt your anguish when you were describing the moment the obituary of your friend popped up in the search window:( All I wanted to do was give you a hug and make you feel better. Yes, April has been emotionally trying even without added loss of a good friend.
    Food definitely comforts and I don’t think that you trivialized the events with offering us the recipe, especially as pesto connects you to your friend:) Your photo is gorgeous, even though it’s a few years old!
    BTW, that “eternal” hickey is pretty creepy!

  26. I am so sorry for your loss, it’s never easy, no matter the distance, whether it be space or time. As I near my 50’s (I have a year+ so don’t feel bad for me yet!) I am losing perfectly healthy friends to devastating diseases so quickly, and parents…that is what I most dread. Even though I may be older and wiser, the helplessness never goes away, and the what ifs can never be answered. Pray for those who loved her. They are the only ones suffering anymore….

  27. Valerie says:

    This was such an emotional post to read. I am sorry for your loss, it must have been a shock to find out. I’m sorry I don’t have anything more comforting to say… I actually do tend to use food to nurture people, so I agree with you there. I’d bake you something if I could.

  28. I’m sorry. So many cannot fight off their inner demons…and it creates such feelings of helplessness. I’m certain she would be thrilled to know you were searching her out…and shared one of her favorite foods i to honor her memory. xo

  29. I experienced something eerily similar recently Lisa. I had made a recipe from an old book filled with recipe cards and it made me think of my friend who had written that card out so many years ago. We had lost touch but we were so close when our children were born; even naming both of our firstborn girls Emily because we both loved the name so much. I thought maybe I could reconnect with Joyce and was heartbroken to read her obituary. She was far too young; we both have children in their 20’s and I think of how her girls must so miss their mom.

    It wasn’t the same circumstances as your loss but I could really identify with your pain…and am so sorry for the loss of someone too soon. Take good care.

  30. Sending love to you, and a BIG hug!!! Your recipe sounds so delicious, and a recipe I would devour for sure:-) I am growing basil, and so excited to make some basil in the future:-) Hugs, Terra

  31. Sammie says:

    Hi Lis.. this post really got me. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to open that Facebook page. Thanks for sharing your story. Beautiful post. And yes you’re right. Food is our essence of comfort through easy and difficult times. Great job on the pesto!

  32. Stephanie says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. There are times that I wonder where some of my old friends have gone to, but sadly, I haven’t been able to find a few of them. I hope you’re feeling better…

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  34. Sophie33 says:

    A very grand post & tribute, Lisa! Thanks for telling us too! 🙂 A very appetizing kale-basil-rocket leaves pesto! I love creating my own combined pesto’s too! MMMMMM! xxxx

  35. Amy Tong says:

    So sorry and sad to hear about the lost. But you can’t blame yourself with the “what if…”. You did what you had to do at the moment.

    On a lighter note, this is one fine pesto! I love arugula and can’t wait to try this recipe. I’m sure your friend from above would appreciate it and would love to see you moved on and live happily. 🙂 Take care.

  36. So sorry for your loss Lisa,it is never easy trying to answer the big “what if”, what if we stayed friends, what if we reconnected, what if I could help but didnt. For those who feel deeply like you do, it is torminting but please don’t blame yourself. You did what you had to do, sometimes we only have the energy to keep ourselves afloat, trying to save another will cause us both to drown

  37. Ruth wright says:

    I had a friend who battled the demons of liquor and lost her battle by taking her life,I truly believe she is now happy for the first time,Will try your delightful pesto recipe if we ever get summer again in Canada !!!

    • Lisa says:

      Oh, Ruth..I’m so sorry to hear that, my condolences xoxo. I think my friend is happy too because earth just wasn’t for her. I hope you enjoy this pesto as much as we do – sending lots of warm sunshine to the Great White North, that is, when we get some too! 🙂

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  39. Aika says:

    I am so sorry about your friend. But she’s now in good hands up there, with no one to hurt her anymore. By the way, I love your recipe. It sounds really delicious.

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you, Aika. I still miss her. As for the recipe, I hope you try it. Last weekend I just tried it with cherries instead of blueberries for a cherry lemon loaf cake!

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