Despierta, mi bien, despierta
Mira que ya amaneció
Ya los pajaritos cantan
La luna ya se metió...
Si yo pudiera bajarte
Las estrellas y un lucero
Para poder demostrarte
Lo mucho que yo te quiero
Wake up, my dear, wake up
Look the day has dawned
The birds are already singing
The moon has already set
If I could lower for you
All the stars and their illumination
I would, to show you
How much I love you
Las Mañanitas - Traditional
There’s a song that many Latin Americans sing to each other for their birthday called “Las mañanitas,” or The Dawns, in English. It’s of Mexican origin but I grew up hearing it at birthday parties and also having it sung to me (along with “Happy Birthday” in English and “Feliz Cumpleaños” in Spanish...there’s a lot of a singing involved!). Today is my birthday, the birds were indeed singing (to me!) this morning, and it made me ponder on my special day: what is my favorite dish? Green Spaghettis aka Tallarines verdes!
When I was growing up I didn’t really know the difference between American food or Peruvian food. I just ate stuff. Sometimes I referred to certain things in Spanish and other times in English, if they were too hard for me to say. It turns out my favorite dish is also my father’s favorite dish and now my daughter’s favorite dish. It is called Tallarines verdes, which I grew up calling Green Spaghettis for, perhaps, an obvious reason. You trying saying that! I didn’t know the origin of Green Spaghettis until I grew up and noticed it on menus in restaurants. Basically, it’s a pesto pasta, with a Peruvian twist.
The main ingredients of tallarines verdes are spaghetti, spinach, basil, garlic, queso fresco, evaporated milk and parmesan cheese. Just looking at these ingredients it is clear that this is a very Italian-influenced dish!
“En 1872 se fundó la sociedad de emigración europea, con el fin de promover la inmigración a Perú de ciudadanos del viejo mundo, facilitándoles pasajes y apoyo financiero para los primeros tiempos de instalación en el país, esperando una afluencia masiva como había ocurrido en otras partes de América...Pero no ocurrió así en Perú, la cantidad de inmigrantes italianos apenas llego a 13000, a diferencia de los 3,5 millones que fueron a Estados Unidos y los 2 millones a la Argentina.” -- Guillermo Torrejon Nava
To summarize the above: In 1872, the Society for European Immigration was founded in Peru with the goal of promoting and facilitating immigration from the Old World to the New. About 13,000 Italians ended up emigrating to Peru and settled mostly in Lima and in Callao. Not only is the style of this dish clearly Italian, none of these ingredients are native to Peru, but the way in which the pasta is made is quite Peruvian. With a traditional pesto you would use olive oil as the liquid to form the base of the sauce and nuts, but in this style we use queso fresco and evaporated milk! It is super simple to make. We hope you enjoy!
Tallarines Verdes al estilo peruano - Serves 4-6
1 package spaghetti (or your choice!)
2 large bunches of washed basil (.5 oz, thereabouts),
1 large bag of triple washed spinach (10 oz),
1-2 cans evaporated milk (12 oz cans)
5 oz queso fresco (or farmer's cheese)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Extra Virgin Olive oil, as needed
Salt, as needed (the cheeses are both a little salty, so be careful here!)
Cook spaghetti, or your chosen form of pasta, according to the packaging. Don’t forget to salt the water!
While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil, in a large pan, drizzle with the olive oil and begin to saute the basil and garlic together. Saute only until fragrant, keeping the basil a bright green, approximately 1 minute. Remove from heat and place in blender.
Next, using the same pan, drizzle a bit more oil then saute the spinach in layers, being sure to move the leaves around so not to burn or brown them. You may need to do two batches of this depending on the size of your pan. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on any one batch. Saute about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place in blender.
Add cheese and one can of evaporated milk and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too think, begin adding the milk of the second can until the desired texture is achieved.
Boil pasta al dente (according to packaging) and drain in a colander.
Pour the sauce into a large pot (large enough to hold spaghetti and sauce combined), and bring it up to a simmer on medium high heat. Add nutmeg and Parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate and simmer for 5 more minutes, making sure the sauce does not stick on the bottom. Adjust salt if needed.
Add in spaghetti and toss to coat. Pro tip: If the pasta dries out at the table, keep a little milk on hand to re-moisten it!
This dish is usually served with a beautiful steak over top. There’s nothing like a fresh chicha morada to wash it all down...but we’ll save that recipe for another time! Buen provecho, amig@s!