Asparagus Pesto Pasta

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Recently I shared that I’d dreamed up an asparagus version of pesto, and the recipe I came up with is quite remarkable, if I say so myself. There were so many choices with the pesto ingredients, but I decided on almonds for the nuts, and to keep the pesto herb-free. I thought about a little fresh mint at first, but I decided to just let the fresh asparagus shine.

And shine it did. It’s not a super strong pesto, especially compared to a basil variety, but it full of flavor from the almonds and garlic as well. I’m very happy with the recipe. I could just spread it on warm bread and eat it like that.

But it’s probably not surprising that I chose to toss this pesto with pasta. But I did something a little different. I’d just made some fresh ricotta the day before (yes, it will be in a future post), and I decided to mix the pesto with the fresh ricotta. It turned out perfectly. The pasta would have been delicious simply tossed with the ricotta-less pesto, with lots of grated Parmesan, but I just wanted to treat this pesto differently.

Asparagus Pesto-Ricotta Pasta

1 – 12 ounce package of your choice of pasta
Approximately 10 ounces of asparagus pesto
An equal amount of fresh ricotta or farmers’ cheese
Grated Parmesan

Cook your pasta according to package directions. Have you ever used one of these gadgets? It’s a rubbery thing that you place on top of your pot and it keeps the water from overflowing. Since I invariably boil over water when I cook pasta, I’ve gotten pretty good at always using this thing.

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Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the asparagus pesto and the ricotta cheese.

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Mix them together with a spoon. I didn’t try to blend them together too much; I like the texture of the ricotta.

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Add the warm pasta and toss to coat the pasta completely.

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I served the pasta sprinkled with grated Parmesan, alongside a pan-fried salmon steak.

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The combination was really good.

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I think I could have also chopped the mint leaves and sprinkled them on top as well, but I didn’t.

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verdict: I will make asparagus pesto again, and again. The only difference is that the pesto by itself could taste a little more like asparagus. So I might add a little more asparagus next time, but keep the other ingredients the same. Mixed with the ricotta, the pesto is just a creamy, flavorful mixture with a hint of asparagus. It’s quite delicious, and would be a wonderful side dish to any protein, or simply served as is, with a tomato salad.

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Asparagus Pesto

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Do any of you ever dream up recipes? Well this is one of those for me. I remember seeing a plate of salmon steaks topped with a green pesto, but that’s not far fetched for me because I spread basil pesto on just about everything. It’s really good on chicken. But my husband would probably eat shoe soles if they were schmeared with my home-made pestos.

But this one was different, because in my dream I realized that it was a pesto made with asparagus. I woke up and realized that this pesto was something I’d really have to follow through on, because it sounded so unique. It helps, of course, if you love asparagus.

I tend to serve fresh, springtime asparagus either steamed or roasted. I don’t get too carried away with fancied up recipes, because I really like treating something like asparagus, at its peak of ripe perfection, very simply. It’s my same attitude I have with fresh fish. If it’s really good quality fish, I do very little to it. I just really want to taste the fish.

But back to asparagus, the idea of the asparagus pesto really stuck with me. Here’s the recipe I created:

Asparagus Pesto
Makes about 12 ounces

1/2 cup whole almonds, about 2 1/2 ounces
6 ounces asparagus
1/3 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Toast the almonds in a cast-iron skillet. I think a little toasting adds more of the almond flavor. Set them aside to cool.

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Meanwhile, remove the ends of the asparagus spears and place the 6 ounces of asparagus in a steamer basket.

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Steam until tender, about 5-6 minutes over boiling water. Then place them on paper towels to drip dry.

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Don’t throw away the asparagus ends. If you want a really enriched asparagus soup, use the ends to make an asparagus stock, that you then can use it in the asparagus soup. I have a recipe here that describes the process.

In a blender jar, place the cooled almonds, the olive oil, and garlic.

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Blend until smooth. Add a little more olive oil if necessary, but you don’t want your pesto too thin.

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Add the asparagus, salt, and lemon juice. Notice I didn’t include Parmesan in the recipe.

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Process until the pesto is smooth.

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So just like in my dream, I spread some of the delicious pesto on two salmon steaks and baked them.

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The pesto is fairly mild, but it baked up beautifully and held its shape. It was really good with the salmon.

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