THE UPSIDE’s own Susan Gagliano loves nothing more than quality time in the kitchen with her nonna Connie Pilo where they put their Italian heritage into practice. This Mother’s Day they’ve given a foolproof favourite a contemporary update, dreaming up a custom Vegan Pesto recipe – the perfect cuisine for a cosy Sunday night in with a loved one.




1x large bunch of basil, remove stems
1x tbsp salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
1x garlic clove peeled
2x tbsp nutritional yeast
50-60ml extra virgin olive oil




1.     Fill a large pot with water and add 1tbsp of salt. Bring to the boil.
2.     Add garlic clove to a large mortar and start to grind with pestle.
3.     Toast pine nuts in a small pan for a few minutes until just golden.
4.     Add pine nuts to mortar and continue to grind.
5.     Add a pinch of salt and gradually add the basil leaves and olive oil and grind until you have a smooth paste.
6.     Add nutritional yeast.
7.     Cook pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta but keep a small bowl of pasta water.
8.     Add pasta back into the pot with pesto.
9.     Add a small amount of cooking water if pasta is a little dry and stir through pesto well.
10.  Plate pasta and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
11.  Buon appetito! Enjoy with your loved ones.




The mother figure is the cornerstone of Italian households, what does an Italian Mother’s Day look like? Are there any Mother’s Day traditions you celebrate as a family?
Susan: Mother’s day for us is normally spent at Nonna’s house for lunch around a table of homemade food. Nonna would have spent the day prior and the morning of Mother’s Day in the kitchen making a variety of different dishes we all love. Although it’s a day to celebrate her, she finds so much joy cooking for us.


There is a huge emphasis on gathering and food, why is this important?
Maryanne: Food is intrinsic to our Italian culture, it brings us together. Not only for special occasions but also on a daily basis, it gives us time out of our busy day’s to be together, to talk and share a laugh. These small moments are so important.


Connie, do you have a mother like relationship with Susan even though she is your granddaughter?
Connie: I do. I feel a very strong maternal connection to Susan and her siblings. This relationship formed when they were young as I was very present in their childhood – cooking dinner for them, taking them to school and sport. Our relationships has continued to strengthen over the years.


Susan, would you view Connie as a mother figure and why?
Susan: Definitely! My Nonna is like a second mum to my siblings and I. For a time in our lives we would see Nonna more than we would Mum. I remember Nonna being at our house when we woke up in the morning, she would cook us breakfast and get us ready for school and we always knew when we arrived home Nonna would have a dinner ready for us. She gave so much love, time and energy to these weekday dinners that we will always remember.


Cooking is not so much about what is being said but more about what is being shared, how is love expressed through cooking?
Maryanne: The care, time, planning and patience that cooking often involves shows how much love you have for the ones you are cooking for. We also not only try to cook tasty dishes but also nourishing ones. For us cooking is a love language.


What are each of your most fond memories together? Is there a particular moment that stands out to you? 
Susan: Travelling to Italy with my Nonna is memory that stands out for me. We not only had the opportunity cook together every day using incredibly fresh ingredients but also try lots of delicious food during our travels. We remember eating the most delicious pasta with porcini mushrooms in Umbria.


What have you learnt about each other while you cook? Is it more than about passing on knowledge / tradition?

Susan: I have learnt the importance of patience and care and how these qualities greatly impact the dish you are preparing

Connie:  The passing on of our family recipes and secrets is very important to me. I remember the tips that my grandmother taught me when I was young and love to pass these onto anyone that I am cooking with.


You’ve chosen a pasta recipe today are there any other treasured recipes you love to cook together?

Pasta is normally our go to for savoury food. We love to make spinach & ricotta cannelloni, gnocchi with sage or pesto and lasagne. For sweets, we love to make traditional Italian biscotti. No birthday or celebration is without my Nonna’s Crostoli, Amaretti biscuits.



Susan wears the Niyama Knit Tee and Thia Flare – Connie wears the Watson’s Bay Crew – Nonna wears the Niyama Knit Bondi Sweater