Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pasta with Pea Pesto - vegan & gluten free

Surprise! A weekend post, because I love you. And because this week was somewhat lame, blogging wise.

Last Saturday, for the first time in quite awhile, I was able to go to my current favorite farmers' market. The changes since my last visit (a month ago? maybe 6 weeks?) were pretty astounding. Summer's bounty is certainly upon us. There was a very long line of people waiting to buy the first local corn of the year; lots of stands had tomatoes for sale, not just the one farm with a greenhouse; raspberries and blackberries are in; sweet pea bouquets provided a cheap pick-me-up.

There were also peas for sale. You know, the kind that come in pods, not the frozen section of your grocery store. Growing up, friends and family will attest, I was not a fan of peas. I don't know if I ever refused to eat them (which was rarely an option anyway), but I certainly ate them under duress.


Anyway, I tried one straight from the pod at the market, and I thought it wasn't terrible. So I took a bag home, and while my brownies baked, I shelled them outside and enjoyed the view. It wasn't hard, just somewhat time-consuming, and Roomba enjoyed chasing the ones I dropped. (to be fair, she likes chasing just about everything. She's what they call High Energy)


I found the inspiration for dinner the other night on Smitten Kitchen (you know about Smitten Kitchen, right? because if not you need to rectify that. immediately.), and I'm so glad I tried this recipe. It came together pretty easily and also pretty quickly- definitely under 30 minutes (minus the shelling).  It's not overwhelmingly pea-flavored, which sounds odd, I know, and wasn't a bad thing.  I know I'll never serve peas-from-a-bag as a side vegetable in my house, but I'll certainly make this again.

Pasta with Pea Pesto - vegan & gluten free
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
The pesto itself is vegan, gluten free, and free of just about eveything else, so it can accomodate lots of folks depending on what pasta you choose. Or just use it as a dip and skip the pasta all-together. Maybe as a topping on some nice crusty bread?

This serves 2-3 as a main course.

1 1/2 C (from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) fresh pea or (if you must) a 10-ounce package frozen peas, defrosted1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/3 C finely grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional)
1/4 tsp salt, plus more for pasta water
1/3 C olive oil
12 oz pasta of choice
thinly slivered basil or mint leaves to garnish (optional)

To ensure your peas don't get overcooked (and therefore yucky), prepare an ice bath: a medium bowl filled with ice water. In a small saucepan, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, add them to the ice bath (if using), swirl them around to help them cool off, and drain again. If you don't use an ice bath, drain, then let the peas cool to lukewarm before proceeding.

Start heating up your pasta water.

Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked peas. Add garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, salt, and the remaining peas to the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times, and then let the machine run for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the machine running, add the olive oil to the cup that sits in the feed tube. Continue to whirl until all the oil has drained and been incorporated.

Cook your pasta until al dente. Reserve some pasta cooking water (Deb says 2 cups, but I only ended up using a splash. So reserve a good amount, see what you need, and adjust for next time). Drain pasta and return it to your pot. I have an electric stove, so I turned it off and just used the leftover heat here, but if you have a gas stove, turn the heat to medium/medium-low. Toss pasta with pesto and reserved peas. If you need to thin the pesto, add some of your reserved pasta water, a little bit at a time, until it's happily distributed.  Adjust salt to taste, and add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using. Extra cheese, if you're using it, is an optional garnish as well; I found I didn't need it. 


  1. Mmmm I can't wait to give this a try!

  2. I live pesto with peas, but Bobbie hates peas in any medium. That makes me sad.

  3. and by live, I of course mean love.

    1. but she used to MAKE me eat them!! not fair. You should totally make this and not tell her. Maybe don't stir in the whole peas at the end. It really didn't taste overwhelmingly like peas


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