The emergence of spring vegetables at farmers’ markets – fava beans, peas, and most of all, asparagus – brings to me a renewed inspiration for cooking which is much appreciated after the relative monotony of winter fare. As the first asparagus made its way home recently, I was reminded of a dinner a good friend hosted for me and my girls last year around this time. He treated us to an asparagus pesto pasta, developed by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, who happens to be one of my favorite chefs/food activists. At least I saw it as a treat – the kids, definitely not (I recall being grateful, though a bit embarrassed to be asking for, plain noodles).
It is totally delicious, takes less than a half-hour from start to finish, goes great with a glass of crisp white wine and makes for wonderful leftovers. Sadly, it remains unappreciated by the younger set in our household but hopefully we’ll have better luck next time.
Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 1 1/2 cups).
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly. (If you have a slotted spoon, use that to take out the asparagus and reserve the cooking water for making the pasta)
2. Transfer the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and gradually add the remaining oil and a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste, pulse one last time, and serve over pasta, fish or chicken (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day).