Basil is…not my favorite herb. To me, there is nothing worse than taking a bite of what I thought was a benign spinach salad, only to chomp down on an unexpected basil leaf. I can take or leave a basil-infused herbal cocktail, but a dessert is not a dessert if it contains even the subtle suggestion of herbs (I’m looking at you, artisan ice cream makers).
Maybe my palate is underdeveloped or unsophisticated, but I firmly believe there is a time and a place for basil: pasta, pizza, and, of course, pesto.
But even pesto can go basil-free if it wants. Okay, if I want). Spinach and kale are common substitutes, but Roommate H told me that her dad sometimes uses blanched asparagus. What?! Vegetable enthusiast that I am, I knew I had to try it.
I was not disappointed (to say the least).
This pesto tastes green. Green like springtime, picnics, farmer’s markets, and the promise of summer. I couldn’t resist folding it into a seasonally inspired pasta salad: sweet peas, tangy sun-dried tomatoes, and tart lemon.
I hope spring has sprung in your corner of the world. It’s finally here in New York (I think).
Here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx it.
Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side
For the pesto:
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into two-inch pieces (ends trimmed)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
For the pasta salad:
- 8 oz pasta (I used gluten-free fusilli)
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Strain, set in a large bowl or pot, and allow to cool completely.
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for one minute, drain, and set aside. Combine asparagus, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Drizzle olive oil into the processor with the motor running. Blend until smooth.
Add peas and sun-dried tomatoes to the pasta. Spoon pesto over top and mix to combine. Drizzle with lemon juice and either chill or serve at room temperature.