Add a veggie-packed twist to a classic Italian sauce with a quick and creamy recipe for Cheesy Asparagus Pesto Pasta made with just nine ingredients.
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I’ve made pesto out of just about every ingredient you can imagine from basil and broccoli to peas and pistachios. It was about time I turned my attention to those long, tender stalks to transform them from a humble veggie into a flavor-packed pesto perfect for tossing with pasta, whisking into mayo, spooning atop roasted veggies or slathering atop my go-to no-yeast pizza dough.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Simple ingredients.
- Super easy and delicious.
- Versatile. Tastes amazing with pasta, as a sandwich spread or as a dip for your favorite crusty baguette.
- Easy to customize.
- Root-to-stem cooking at its finest!
Key Ingredients You’ll Need
- Asparagus: First blanch the asparagus in hot water to quickly tenderize the stalks and preserve the green color, and then blend it with the essential pesto components to make a creamy sauce or spread.
- Nuts: Anything goes when it comes to adding nutty richness to pesto sauce, so feel free to get creative with your preferred nuts. A few of the best nuts include pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and almonds.
- Parmesan cheese: No parm? No problem! Any hard-grating cheese, such as asiago, Manchego, Pecorino Romano or grana padano can all be used in place of parmesan cheese.
- Garlic: Fresh is best. However, for added depth of flavor, try roasting the garlic first!
- Lemon juice: Brightens the flavor profile and adds just the right amount of zing.
- Olive oil: I highly recommend using good-quality extra virgin olive oil. My favorite brand is Kosterina.
How to Make Asparagus Pesto
- Blanch the asparagus. Slice the asparagus into 2-inch pieces and add them to a boiling pot of water for 1 minute then remove them and immediately rinse them under cold water.
Pro tip: Don’t skip this step! Blanching the asparagus in hot water quickly tenderizes the stalks and preserves the green color.
- Use a blender or food processor to combine ingredients. Add the asparagus, along with the toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a blender. Blend the ingredients for 10 to 15 seconds, then with the blender still running, slowly stream in the olive oil until it’s fully incorporated and the mixture is well-blended, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season it with salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled if your blender/food processor is large enough.
Pro Tips for Recipe Success
- Whichever nut you choose, it’s important to toast it prior to adding it to the blender to release the oils and amplify the flavor.
- Pesto of all varieties freezes beautifully. Store it in an ice cube tray in the freezer to make for easy reheating in small or large portions.
- Get creative with how you use pesto! It can stretch far beyond that plate of pasta and tastes great mixed with mayo, turned into a pizza sauce or drizzled atop soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both blanching the asparagus and adding lemon juice will help this pesto retain its green color.
Store homemade pesto in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Yes! Pesto will keep in the freezer for up to six months when stored in a freezer-safe container. You can also freeze the pesto in ice cube trays for the perfect small amount to add to pasta later. To do this, simply pour the pesto into your ice cube tray and place it in the freezer for a few hours until solid. Remove the frozen cubes from the tray and place them in a zip-top plastic bag. Store in the freezer for up to six months.
The fastest way to defrost pesto is in the microwave on the defrost setting, stirring intermittently. However, if you plan on cooking with the pesto, there’s no need to defrost it. Simply take out your frozen pesto cubes and toss them with hot pasta or place them directly into your hot pan.
More Recipes to Make with Asparagus
- Asparagus Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
- Cheesy Asparagus Tart
- Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
- Baked Asparagus Fries with Roasted Garlic Aioli
- Roasted Asparagus with Cheesy Breadcrumbs
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- 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound uncooked pasta of choice
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Slice the asparagus into 2-inch pieces and add them to the boiling water for 1 minute then remove them and immediately rinse them under cold water. (Keep the pot of salted water at a boil.)
- Reserve some of the tips of the asparagus to use as garnish. Add the rest of the asparagus to a blender, along with the toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend the ingredients for 10 to 15 seconds, then with the blender still running, slowly stream in the olive oil until it’s fully incorporated and the mixture is well-blended, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season it with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook until al dente. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl, add the pesto and reserved asparagus spears, tossing to combine. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.
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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.