Updated: Apr 19, 2021
I'm not sure if anything shouts "SPRING!" louder than this recipe. Herby pesto + tender arugula + fresh asparagus = the perfect springtime dish. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces to prepare when the weather starts to warm up, and it can be made with a variety of delicious ingredients. I happened to have a big box of arugula sitting in my fridge the other night, so decided to make a peppery arugula and basil pesto with what I had on hand. I've whipped up pestos with different herbs in lieu of or in addition to the basil, various nuts in place of pine nuts, and even sun-dried tomatoes for a yummy "red" version of this classic Italian sauce. I love sneaking spinach, soft steamed broccoli, and/or peas into pesto sauces tossed with hearty whole grain noodles for my boys to eat! The pesto possibilities are endless! However, I especially enjoy this arugula pesto- it’s elegant, delicate, and flavorful. Tossed with long, slender strands of fettuccine (or linguini) pasta and shaved asparagus, it makes for a delightful and beautiful spring side or main course. We had it for dinner with a simply seared salmon filet, but it could also serve as a satisfying vegetarian entree. This dish seems fancy, but it‘s easy to prepare and comes together quickly. You are going to love this perfect pesto pasta- embrace “la primavera” with this vibrant, delicious, and nutritious recipe!
prep time: 15 min. cook time: 15 min. serves: 4
2-1/2 cups baby arugula, divided
1 small garlic clove, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, divided
1/2 cup good olive oil
6 thick stalks of asparagus
1/2 lb fettuccine, tagliatelle or linguini pasta
1 tsp lemon zest
grated parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and basil leaves cut into chiffonade
Make the pesto: place the garlic, scallions, 1 cup arugula, the basil, 1/4 cup of the pine nuts, 1/2 cup of the parmesan and 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the ingredients to combine into a rough paste. With the machine running, slowly stream the olive oil into the paste until it has incorporated. The pesto should be thick but loose enough to slowly fall off a spatula when you dip it into the sauce. Add more oil if you feel the consistency is not what it should be. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: place a stalk of asparagus on a flat work surface and starting at the base of the stalk, use your vegetable peeler to peel the asparagus into long ribbons (some the asparagus stalk will be leftover- save it for a stock if you like). Set the ribbons aside while you cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water to use later. Drain the pasta and return it the hot pot. Add the asparagus, pesto, lemon zest, pasta water, a pinch of salt, plus the remaining parmesan cheese, pinenuts, and arugula. Gently toss the mixture together to evenly coat all the ingredients in the pesto sauce. Nestle helpings of the pasta in large bowls garnished with more parmesan, pine nuts, and basil on top and enjoy!