Thursday, April 26, 2012

Asparagus Pesto

Pesto is one of my all time favorite sauces for pasta.

I remember tasting pesto for the first time at a wonderful restaurant called Pronto, in Chicago. My ex-hubby was on a business trip, working on a computer conversion at the Chicago Stock Exchange, and  I accommpanied him on this trip.  The highlight was seeking out interesting places to dine, each night. Pronto had an open steel kitchen, and it was the first time I'd ever seen one. It was impressive, to say the least. The pesto was soooo good, and I've been making it ever since. My dessert, that evening, was also to die for!  It was a dense dark chocolate cake topped with espresso ice cream and a bittersweet chocolate sauce. A memorable meal, indeed.

Yesterday, Rachel Ray made a pesto using asparagus. It never occurred to me to use asparagus! So I did some research online, and settled on a recipe from the NY Times. I tweaked it a little, adding a chiffonade of baby spinach to the pasta water, at the last minute, and left some of the tips of the asparagus spears whole, and placed them on top, just beore serving.

I also used whole wheat penne, but you can use whatever pasta you prefer.

Asparagus Pesto
Time: 20 minutes

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
1 clove garlic, or more to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil, or more as desired
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste.

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. 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). Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 1 1/2 cups).