Thursday, April 8, 2010

Literary Bite: Pea Pesto Pasta

Less literary, more biting this week. I feel like I’ve been making this excuse a lot recently, but I just haven’t had time to finish my book!

That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading. I read every day. Or more specifically, every night before I go to sleep. But when I’m tired from hosting and tourism and 6am yoga, I can only make it through a few pages before I nod off. (It doesn’t particularly help that the book I’m reading is long and extremely informative.)

If you think about it, reading is kind of like running – you have to do it consistently. Picking up your book every few days and reading just a few pages makes it impossible to really get into the story. But the more you read, the more you want to read – think of it as building up your literary mileage. It’s a commitment to get there, but once you’re in shape it’s the best thing in the world!

So while we’re all working on our literary fitness, check out this FABULOUS recipe –Pea Pesto Pasta. It’s easy, beautiful, and so spring-y! (Nothing says summer like a cold pasta salad.)

My recipe was inspired by Faith (from An Edible Moasic – also the inspiration for LLC’s birthday cake), but I tweaked it quite a bit. To see the original recipe, go here. I made a lot– enough for probably 12 big dinner servings. So this recipe is for a double-batch. If you want to make a more normal quantity, just cut it in half.

Pea Pesto Pasta

(Yield:  10-12 servings)

1 ½ lbs small-cut pasta (I used fusilli – 1 ½ boxes of pasta)

3 c frozen green peas, thawed

1 c fresh parsley (I omitted this – thank you TJ’s and Safeway for NEVER having what I need!)

2 whole sprig fresh mint (plus more to garnish if desired)

1/3 c whole unsalted almonds (if you buy them already roasted, you can save yourself a step)

1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

5 TB white balsamic vinaigrette, or more to achieve desired consistency (substitutions:  any vinaigrette you have on hand, or olive oil)

Salt and pepper

Fun Stuff (all optional)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

1 clove garlic

2 cups sliced crimini or portabello mushrooms

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb), cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cups cherry or grape tomatoes

½ lb smoked salmon

Cook the Pasta:  Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions.  When it’s done cooking, rinse the pasta with cold water in a strainer. 

Toast the Almonds:  To a small pan over medium heat, add the almonds and cook until they turn a light golden color and have a strong nutty aroma, occasionally shaking the pan so they don’t burn on one side.

For the Fun Stuff:

Sautee the garlic and onion in olive oil on medium heat until tender (about 3 minutes). Add the mushrooms and sautee about 3 minutes, until they are tender, but not limp. Add the asparagus and turn off the heat.


Gently pat the thawed peas dry with a clean kitchen towel.  To the bowl of a food processor, add the parsley, mint, almonds, and peas.  Pulse until it’s starting to come together, then stream in the vinaigrette (or olive oil, if using) while still pulsing, until it reaches your desired consistency. (I do not have a food processor, so I used my blender.)

Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the cheese.  Stir in the pasta and the onion/mushroom/asparagus mixture. Let it cool for 15 minutes, then mix in the tomatoes and sliced smoked salmon.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate before serving (the longer the better - this is a GREAT make in advance recipe.)

This Pea Pesto Pasta plus Cream Cheese Strawberry Pound Cake equals the perfect eat-on-the-roof, celebrate-the-warm-weather, chillax-with-your-friends meal.