Just like there are a thousand (ok, just a slight exaggeration here:)) ways to celebrate a happy occasion, there are a thousand ways to make pasta – seriously! You can go wild with the ingredients you put together in making a pasta sauce. But the best way to be creative as well as enjoy some fresh flavors of a pasta recipe is to try seasonal ingredients and mix them up with traditional favorites like basil, sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. I dished up a new pasta sauce recipe last weekend using Asparagus and Peas Pesto, mixed with some chopped pecans and some more blanched Asparagus, all combined with Fettuccine to make this deliciously green and healthy pasta meal that is perfect for an easy fun dinner.
A quick trip to the Farmer’s Market will show you all the latest seasonal bounty; I grabbed a bunch of nice ripe Asparagus and some fresh green peas. We generally use frozen peas in the US, but the beautiful green pea pods reminded me of India, where we NEVER use any frozen vegetables, ever! So when I came home and dumped them on the kitchen counter, I saw that both the vegetables share a beautiful green color, and also have a similar feel in terms of taste. The chef within my head told me they would work great in a chutney/sauce blend, and that led to the creation of our Pasta dinner with fresh Asparagus & Green pea sauce.
Fettuccine with Asparagus & Green Pea Pesto
1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb), trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise
10-12 baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh green peas – boiled or steamed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
1/4 cup fresh cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
fine-grain sea salt – to taste
freshly ground black pepper – to taste
1 package (12 ounces) fresh pasta -linguini, fettuccini, or spaghetti
Cook the pasta according to the package directions and let it simmer while you make the Pesto sauce.
If you are not using Roasted pine nuts, you can add 1 tsp oil in a skillet and roast them for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Same for the green peas. Steam them in the microwave so they are cooked through and through, or para-boil on a stove to make them soft, before adding them to the pesto.
Making the Pesto
Bring some water to boil in a large pot to cook the asparagus. Salt the asparagus water and drop the asparagus spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut the tips off, and set aside, several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) to use for garnish.
Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, boiled peas, Parmesan, and the roasted pine nuts to a food processor. With the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil slowly until a thick paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice, pepper and salt, and adjust per your taste. Right before giving it the final whisk in the blender, add the fresh cream and blend.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, add some oil to prevent them from sticking to one another, and toss them in a serving bowl. Cover with a generous helping of the Asparagus & Green Pea pesto, tossing the noodles so they are covered evenly with the sauce.
Garnish with some more shaved Parmesan cheese and the reserved asparagus sprigs. Serve with a side of garlic bread for a delicious pasta dinner.
Chef’s Notes: My family loves tomatoes, so I threw in some fresh chopped tomatoes in the sauce as well, while tossing in the pasta. It adds a nice color splash to the green pasta, as well as a flavor variation. Also, I found that for a spice kick, adding some chopped green chillies to the Asparagus pesto recipe will do wonders to the final taste. Try it for yourself, if you love spice in your pasta.
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