Monday, May 10, 2010

Pasta with Asparagus Pesto

I was reading the NY Times Dining & Wine section the other day and came across the strangest recipe on Mark Bittman's blog for Asparagus Pesto.  I have heard of all sorts of pestos before - sun-dried tomato pesto, pesto genovese (the traditional basil-based pesto that everyone is used to), arugula pesto, etc.  But I have never heard of asparagus pesto.  And then I figured, what the heck.  I love asparagus.  And right now since asparagus coming into season it is everywhere, as are recipes and suggestions on how to cook it.  As much as I love asparagus, grilling it can get old, as can lightly steaming it and serving it with a mustard vinaigrette like my mom does.  I love her asparagus.  Lately I have a bookmarked a few new asparagus recipes to try while I am feasting on one of my favorite seasonal produce items of the year.  This was one of the first of my new recipes that I tried out and I am a huge fan.  Mark Bittman's recipe was just for the pesto itself, but the idea of mixing it with pasta was an elementary one.  We tossed the pesto with some cooked asparagus spears and strascinati pasta that we bought at Zabar's.  As an alternative, I would recommend tossing it with gemelli or another similarly-shaped pasta.

The asparagus pesto was much subtler and more delicately flavored than most typical pestos made from basil.  The addition of the lemon juice brightens it all up and just reminds me again how much asparagus tastes like spring to me.

Recipe after the jump!

Pasta with Asparagus Pesto
By Mark Bittman

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tbsp evoo
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, plus additional for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste.
1 lb. strascinati pasta, cooked according to directions in boiling salted water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add the asparagus and cook until tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes. Drain well and shock asparagus spears in ice water.  Transfer 2/3 of the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons evoo, parm-reg, s&p.  Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor if necessary.  Gradually stream in the third tbsp of evoo while processing pesto, adding more if necessary.  Add the lemon juice and season with additional s&p to taste.  This recipe should produce about 1 1/2 cups of pesto.

Toss cooked pasta with 1 cup of prepared pesto and 1/4 cup of reserved pasta cooking liquid to create a sauce.  Add remaining asparagus spears.  Toss to combine.  Top each portion of pasta with parm-reg to taste, and more pesto if desired.

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