It's kind of liberating to find out that all pestos don't have to include basil. Instead of that herb, this recipe from Closet Cooking uses asparagus, along with a little spinach. It's all based on a recipe from Simply Recipes, but it takes one step beyond, adding another element that comes close to getting away from pesto entirely and flirting with a blended raw sauce. But it looks so frightening like pesto that's it's impossible to call it anything else.
This pesto may look similar, but it swaps the pine nuts for pistachios, and stays green thanks to a handful of spinach. It's not as herbaceous as the traditional version, but it's creamier and more delicate. It also latches onto the noodles more effectively. It certainly doesn't replace the more traditional kind, but with asparagus just beginning to pop up, it's a great way to start the season.
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends removed
- 1/4 cup spinach
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 tablespoons pistachios, toasted
- 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated, plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 pound pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When ready, add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the water and shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain and then place on a cutting board. Slice off the tips and set aside. Roughly chop the rest.
Add a cup of the chopped asparagus to a food processor along with the spinach, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the pistachios, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Blend until it is a paste.
Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water. Cook according to the directions on the box. Save a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta when done, and return to the still hot pot. Add 1 cup of the pesto and half of the pasta water. Stir well. If it is too dry, add some more water.
Chop the remaining pistachios. Serve the pasta and garnish with the pistachios, and more grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.