I hope you enjoy this update of an old favorite, first posted in June of 2006. I’ve improved the recipe and added nutritional information and new photos.
I had to make a dish to take to a potluck yesterday, and when I went to the pantry to assemble the ingredients for the pasta salad I’d planned to make, I found I was out of two essential ingredients. And I seemed to be missing an ingredient or two of every other “tried and true” recipe I could think of. I didn’t really want to experiment on a new recipe when I would be serving the results to other people, but then I figured, what the heck: I didn’t know most of the people who would be eating it anyway, and if it turned out terrible, I could put on a innocent expression and deny responsibility!
Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to such subterfuge. The asparagus pesto I decided to make was a hit, and I didn’t have to sneak my serving bowl out under my shirt when the dinner was over. In fact, several people who saw me claim the (empty!) bowl walked up to ask me how I’d made the sauce.
I don’t think I would have ever thought of making pesto with cooked asparagus if I hadn’t happened across this recipe. I would normally make pesto with a little silken tofu (instead of olive oil), but that was one of the many ingredients missing from my pantry. So when I saw the recipe for asparagus pesto sauce, I knew I had to try it. And I’m glad I did: Between the asparagus and the lemon juice, this turned out much more tangy than regular pesto. It’s definitely a keeper!
Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad
This is one of those dishes that improve overnight as the sauce has time to develop its flavor.
- 2 pounds asparagus
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (lightly toasted)
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound whole wheat or gluten-free spiral pasta
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Without emptying the water from the pot, lift out the asparagus spears and place them in a colander. Rinse with cool water.
- Bring the water back to a boil. Add salt, if needed, and add pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and drain and rinse the pasta with cool water. Put into a serving bowl.
- Place the asparagus on a cutting board. Trim off the top 3 inches of the asparagus spears, and put the tips into the bowl with the pasta. Cut the bottoms into several pieces, and set aside to use in the pesto sauce.
- Use a food processor to make the pesto: With the processor running, drop in the garlic cloves and allow them to chop. Add 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and pulse to chop. Add the lemon juice, basil, salt, nutritional yeast, and the asparagus pieces (not the tips!) along with 3-6 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and optional olive oil. (Start with 3 tbsp. water and add more as needed.) Puree until smooth.
- Toss the pasta, asparagus tips, and tomatoes (if using) with the pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Since I was making it ahead of time, I added the optional olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, but I don’t think it improved the taste, so don’t feel like you need to use it.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (7.7 ounces) without olive oil: Calories: 255 | Fat: 2.5 | Protein: 11 | Sodium: 151