Dinner & a Movie: Lemon Pesto Stelline for “While You Were Sleeping”

Partially in honor of Nora Ephron and her love of food and movies–I re-read some of her essays in I Feel Bad About My Neck today–I’ve decided to start a “Dinner & A Movie” themed series of posts. That’s something I always thought we had in common, a love of food and old movies, as strange as that sounds. Mind you, I don’t feel like I have oodles in common with every celebrity or anything. Nora Ephron just seemed like the sort of celebrity and author one could have dinner with sans weirdness.

I can’t, however, bring myself to watch You’ve Got Mail or Julie & Julia yet. Too afraid I might cry like a silly little goose. Julie & Julia makes me cry, anyway; it’s the love story between the Childs that does it, particularly when you know Paul Child had to spend his last years in a nursing home due to illness.  So, I decided to go with While You Were Sleeping and my made-up recipe for lemon-pesto stelline. What’s stelline? Stelline is pasta cut into tiny star shapes, more like risotto than spaghetti. I can totally imagine one of Nora’s “imaginary conversations” about the deliciousness of this pasta and the easy-going charm of Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock.

Lemon-Pesto Stelline  with Toasted Pine Nuts (serves two generously)

1/2 box of stelline pasta, cooked and drained

1/4 stick of butter

Juice of one whole lemon

Generous spoonful of pesto

Vast quantities of Feta Cheese

Heaps of Pine Nuts

Small quantity of reserved pasta water–1/4 cup or less

Instructions: Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Cook the stelline in a pot with water and a bit of sea salt, until al dente. Reserve a small amount of the starchy pasta water, then drain the pasta stars and return them to the original pot. Toss the pasta with the butter, lemon juice, pesto, and a splash of pasta water. Add in as much feta cheese as you’d like and stir over the still-warm burner to melt the cheese. You can also add more pesto, if you’re terribly fond of pesto. Then add the pine nuts and serve with chilled white wine. The pasta should be the right mix of lemony-tangy-cheesy-soft-nutty-crunchy textures and flavors. Very easy to make, especially if you leave the pesto-prep to professionals.

While You Were Sleeping is a lovely little film from early in Sandra Bullock’s career. She plays a tollbooth attendant named Lucy who has lost both her parents and has a sweet-natured crush on a regular commuter played by the heavily-eyebrowed Peter Gallagher.* When he’s mugged at the train station on Christmas, she saves his life and, through a series of old-fashioned movie misunderstandings, his family comes to believe they are engaged. As Lucy becomes closer to his family, she begins to fall for the younger brother of the Gallagher character, played by Bill Pullman. Bullock & Pullman have classic chemistry, reminiscent of films I love from the 1940s. In fact, the movie reminds me of 1941’s Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck & Denis Morgan. While You Were Sleeping is one of those movies that lets you enjoy the setting, the characters, and plot in a measured way. There’s plenty of time for secondary characters and scenes of Chicago over the holidays. Sometimes, I think they don’t make movies like this anymore, but I saw The Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, so there’s still hope for romantic comedies without cynicism, thank goodness. I just wish more of them starred Bullock & Pullman.

Here’s the beginning of While You Were Sleeping:

 *In addition to his excellent eyebrows, Mr. Gallagher is also a swell blues singer. I have his album 7 Days in Memphis. Yes, I still say “album” like an old fogey. He covers several great Solomon Burke songs.

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