Monday, April 18, 2011

Meatless Monday - Pasta with Spring Vegetable Pesto

Spring is here! As a foodie, this is my favorite time of year. The sun is bringing us out of hibernation, birds are singing merry songs, flowers are brightening the landscape. Best of all: bright, fresh vegetables are readily abundant.

My favorite spring veggie: asparagus. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have learned to appreciate asparagus for its incredibly short season and would be FASCINATED to learn how it is grown & harvested the other 50 weeks of the year. If you have not yet read this book, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library or bookstore to get a copy.

Meatless meals are perfect for spring and summer. Delicious, organic produce is plentiful and our bodies crave lighter meals rather than the heavy, fatty meals we consume in colder months. An added bonus, with swimsuit season around the corner, is the calories that you do without when forgoing meat.

Inspired by the season’s produce, I headed to my “test kitchen” to utilize the bright green spears. Armed with my food processor, I created a tasty April meatless meal.

Pasta with Spring Vegetable Pesto (makes 4 servings)
  • 8 oz. whole wheat penne pasta (or your favorite pasta)
  • 1 small bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (or more, as needed)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Salt & pepper

 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Wash the asparagus spears and cut off bottom inch and a half (in my opinion, snapping the spears by hand wastes a lot of perfectly good asparagus!). Cut all of the spears into 1-2 inch pieces. Set half aside, and add remaining pieces to the water along with half of the peas. Cook briefly until vegetables are bright green, about 2 minutes, and remove from boiling water (do not drain) using a spider or strainer to the bowl of a food processor.

In the meantime, add the pasta to the boiling water and begin to cook according to package directions.

To the food processor, add lemon juice; season with salt & pepper. Pulse a few times to begin breaking down the vegetables then add the pine nuts and parmesan. Blend vegetables and drizzle in the olive oil until a pesto texture is produced.

In the last two minutes of the cooking time, add the reserved asparagus and peas to the pasta cooking water. Drain and toss with the pesto. Serve topped with extra grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

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