I used to crush pasta. I’d come home from high school sports practice and devour platefuls of rotini. Seconds, thirds, forget about it. Pesto has always been a favorite of mine, flavor-wise, but I don’t make it so often.
The main reason is the color change. If you’ve ever made pesto before you know what I’m talking about. When it’s fresh it’s just beautiful – brilliant green. In literally five minutes it’s turned an ugly army green color; it tastes just as good but as the basil oxidizes it turns black (like how a cut apple yellows). I gave my brother-in-law a container of this to take home and I apologized profusely explaining that he should still eat it even if it looks like it’s gone bad.
Ok – so no leftovers, but it’s SO GOOD. If you can make this and eat it right away, then MAKE IT! With the addition of peas you get creamy pesto without extra olive oil or cheese. It’s ALSO much higher in protein and fiber than a typical pesto recipe. Now, I didn’t add peas just for health reasons. I sometimes eat pesto and get bored halfway through my meal; it’s salty and fresh but not always as complex as I’d like. The peas lend a touch of sweetness that works so well with the other flavors. You’ve gotta try it!
Sweet Pea Pesto
1 lb. whole wheat pasta
1 1/4 c. frozen peas, thawed
2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. walnuts, toasted*
2 garlic cloves
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. reserved pasta water
*To toast a small amount of nuts, just microwave! 1/4 c. of walnuts took about 2 minutes on high power in the microwave.
1. Bring a pot of water to boil – add 1 tbsp. salt. Add pasta and cook until ready.
2. Meanwhile, puree peas, basil, walnuts, and garlic in food processor until finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the canister and add olive oil. Puree. Scrape sides again and add cheese, salt and pepper. Puree.
3. When pasta is ready, scoop out about 1 c. of pasta water before draining. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add pesto to pot and set heat to low. Add about 1/2 c. pasta water (more if necessary) and stir to coat. Serve immediately.