asparagus & spinach pesto

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Asparagus is tough to get excited about when you don’t have a recipe in mind. It remains the underdog of the Collingswood Farmers’ Market and is available from several vendors on Saturday mornings. My market haul included Springdale Farms asparagus, Flaim Farms organic spinach, Savoie Organic Farms planted basil and MECHA Chocolates Beauty Bark. The dark chocolate bark is sprinkled with dried blueberries, caramelized cocoa nibs, walnuts and chia seeds and is really making me look good. It also tastes fantastic.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and the dinner menu featured asparagus on top of asparagus garnished with asparagus. You’re welcome, Mom. 

Feel free to use your own pasta dough recipe or boxed pasta with this pesto.

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asparagus & spinach pesto

yield: enough pesto for 2 pounds pasta

pesto
12 ounces asparagus, blanched and plunged in ice bath
6-8 ounces spinach leaves with stems, blanched and plunged in ice bath
¼ cup unsalted pistachios, roasted for 5-7 minutes at 350-degrees
½ - ¾ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
1-2 raw garlic cloves, to taste (start with 1 clove)
sea salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil or more (I use California Olive Ranch Arbequina Olive Oil)

1-2 pounds asparagus pasta dough (recipe below) or boxed pasta
reserved hot pasta water

garnish
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-5 raw spears very thin asparagus, sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios, roasted and roughly chopped
grated fresh parmesan

Equipment: You will need a food processor, large pot for boiling water, metal strainer or large slotted spoon, large pan to toss the pasta with pesto, and ladle

Prepare and measure all ingredients before beginning. Garnishes are optional and may be added to the dish just before serving. Place the blanched asparagus, blanched spinach, roasted pistachios, ½ cup parmesan cheese and 1 garlic clove into the food processor. Process to a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust as needed. You may add more parmesan cheese or another garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Process again. Once you are satisfied with the overall taste, turn the food processor to low speed and slowly drizzle in the ¼ cup of olive oil. You may need an additional tablespoon or so of oil.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add at least 1 tablespoon of salt. Add pasta and cook to al dente. Do not drain. Using the metal strainer, transfer the pasta to a large pan. Off heat, Add 1 cup of pesto to the large pan and 1 ladle of hot pasta water. The hot pasta water will heat up the pesto and also assist to coat the pasta. You may add more pesto or pasta water to reach your desired consistency. Divide servings to bowls and top with garnishes.


asparagus pasta dough

yield: 1 pound pasta

Asparagus paste (recipe below)
500g grams Italian 00 flour (Anna or Caputo available at Whole Foods)
2 whole large eggs, shells removed

The dough recipe is measured in grams and requires a scale. A wooden surface is preferable for making dough and a metal scraper is handy.

asparagus paste
1 pound asparagus, blanched and plunged in ice bath
¼ - ½ cup reserved ice water

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Equipment: You will need a blender to puree asparagus

Put the blanched asparagus and ¼ cup ice bath water in a blender. Puree until silky smooth. If the puree seems chunky, use the remaining ¼ cup water (or more) and continue pureeing. Set aside.

pasta dough
Weigh the flour and dump out onto your working surface. Shape into a circle and make a well in the center.

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Place a medium container on your scale large enough to hold the eggs and asparagus paste. Tare (zero) your scale. Add both eggs. Now begin adding the asparagus paste until the total weight of two eggs and asparagus paste is 300 grams. Beat the eggs and paste with a fork to combine. (Note, you will have excess asparagus paste and may use it for another recipe or in a smoothie.)

Pour half of the egg/paste mixture into your flour well and begin mixing with your hands to incorporate the flour. Add the remaining egg/paste mixture and continue mixing by hand directly on your work surface. Once you have a shaggy ball of dough, begin kneading for at least 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. If your dough is tacky after 10 minutes, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough and work surface and continue to knead. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 2 days or frozen for 1 month. You may use this dough to make lasagna, fettucine, pappardelle, tagliatelle or garganelli.

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