Fresh Pea Pesto Penne

A couple of weeks ago, we got our first batch of shell peas of the season from the CSA. I wanted to try something new with them, other than sautéing them, adding them to a stew, or making a spread. After seeing a post on fresh pea pesto on another food blog, I thought I’d try making a pasta sauce out of the peas too.

I dutifully started shelling peas, a task that I oddly enjoy but has become a game of sorts lately– how many pea pods can I get through before the baby needs a diaper change or needs to be nursed? In any case, there’s something oddly satisfying about splitting open that crispy, green shell, running your finger along the peas to release them from the pod, and hearing the plinks of each pea as it falls into the bowl. The one downside is seeing how much work you did for a relatively little yield. I took this picture to show how much I’d be tossing in the compost compared to how much I’d actually use for this dish. In this case, I think I shelled 1.5 lbs of peas to get about 1.5 cups of peas.

But the work is worth it. I took those peas and blanched them before adding them to a food processor with some toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, fresh mint and dill and salt and pepper. I then took some of the water in which I cooked the pasta and streamed that in while processing until I had a smooth, pesto like puree. I added my pesto to the cooked linguine and mixed in some marscarpone cheese and a splash more of that pasta water. The noodles were soon covered in a slick, pastel green sauce. How did it taste? The sauce was sweet and creamy with an underlying grassy taste from the peas and fresh herbs, yet warmed through from the toasty, nutty taste of the walnuts. This was a fast, refreshing, and relatively healthy meal. The only heat generated was from water boiling on the stove, so definitely a dinner to keep in mind during high summer heat and peak shell pea season.

  • 12 oz whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 1.5 lbs shell peas (or 1.5 cups fresh peas)
  • 2 medium cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh dill and mint, chopped
  • 6 oz marscarpone cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Bring a small pot of water to boil then add the peas. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or until peas are bright green. Drain and submerge under cold water to stop cooking. Add the peas, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, mint and dill to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process while streaming in pasta cooking water until you have a smooth paste, about 1/3-1/2 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pea pesto mix to the hot pasta along with the marscarpone cheese. Splash in more pasta water until you get a sauce consistency to your liking. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings.

CSA Count: 3

Shell peas, fresh garlic, dill

Garden Count: 1

Mint

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