Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Asparagus and Herb Pesto Pasta

Some days, in the middle of winter, when I feel like there is no end in sight, I crave the fresh, light tastes of summer. Sure by the end of August or September, I start to get tired of zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus every night of the week. I look forward to the earthy, heartier root vegetables available in fall and winter. And don't get me wrong, I still love those vegetables and all of the comfort they bring during the cold winter months. But there are times in the winter when I want a taste of something green and fresh. Something that reminds me of the warm spring and summer months.
This simple pasta dish is full of bright, fresh tastes and colors. The sweetness of the peas and the slight crunch of the asparagus goes perfectly with the fresh herbs in the creamy pesto and the salty feta cheese. Everything cooks in one large pot of boiling water and the pesto whips up in no time in a food processor or blender. I will definitely be making this again when asparagus really is in season come early summertime. But for now, I will take a little help from the grocery store to invoke those flavors of warm weather and long days.

Side note: I realize when I write, I sound like I must live in Alaska or the frozen tundra, but no, I just live in NC where our winters are quite mild. However, I strongly detest cold weather and therefore blow any amount of coldness way out of proportion. Just wanted you to know that I am aware of this personal trait. :)

Asparagus and Herb Pesto Pasta (2 dinner servings, or 4 side dish servings)

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup green peas (frozen is fine)
  • 8 oz pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, about 1.5-2 cups loosely packed
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, about 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with about 1 tbsp salt.
Boil asparagus for 4-6 minutes, until crisp tender. After 2 minutes, add peas. Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl.
Return water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Add pasta to vegetables.
While pasta is cooking, Combine basil, mint and feta in a food processor or blender. Pulse to combine.
Stream in about 1/3 cup olive oil to make a thick paste. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Feta is quite salty on its own, so only a little is needed.
Toss pasta and vegetables in pesto sauce, using a splash of pasta water if too thick. Check seasoning.
Garnish with remaining feta cheese.

For a printable recipe click here
Adapted from Epicurious.com

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