Asparagus Pesto

I was given a subscription to Rachael Ray’s magazine as a gift. I am not a huge fan. I don’t watch the show. In fact, the way she cooks with her hair down and jewelery dangling in the food, freaks me out a bit. I also have a problem with adding sodium filled chicken broth and EVOO by the cup full. I was flipping through her latest issue and thought I would try it. I switched it up a bit. Pretty darned good! The kids ate peas, spinach, and asparagus and never even knew it!
1 pound thin asparagus
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (I omitted these)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves (I omitted these)
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves or 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (I used 3/4 cup baby spinach to replace the mint, parsley, and basil/ tarragon)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3-4 tablespoons pistachios, toasted
1 clove garlic, grated or made into a paste
Juice of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound penne (I used whole wheat shells)
1 cup fresh shelled peas or defrosted frozen organic peas
Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Serves 4

Trim the tough ends from the asparagus. Store half of the spears upright in a glass filled halfway with water to keep it fresh for a few days, or until ready to serve. Chop the remaining asparagus and place it in a food processor. Add the mint, parsley, tarragon, cheese, pistachios, garlic and lime juice. Add the EVOO, pouring to a count of 6 (1/3-1/2 cup). Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until the pesto comes together. Place in a small container and store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.
To serve, bring the pesto to room temperature and place it in a large, shallow serving bowl. Slice the reserved asparagus spears on an angle into 1 1/2-inch pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta and season with salt. Cook the pasta for 5 minutes, then add the peas and chopped asparagus and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the starchy cooking water and add it to the serving bowl to thin the pesto. Drain the pasta, peas and asparagus and add to the bowl. Toss for 1-2 minutes to combine. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the shaved cheese.
*Cook’s Note: The pesto can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.


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