Pesto Pasta with Asparagus, Corn, and ChickpeasCourse: MainCuisine: MediterraneanDifficulty: Easy
Here in South Florida, April marks the end of our growing season, so basil, tomatoes, and corn are abundant. Also, at this time, grocery stores are selling fresh asparagus, shipped from up North. This dish represents the harmonic convergence of those flavors.
A note on my pesto. I am aware this is not a “traditional” recipe, as they make in Liguria, Italy with a mortar and pestle. I do believe that pesto made with a mortar and pestle has a heightened basil flavor, but I don’t like how quickly it turns brown. I have perfected my basil pesto technique, which guarantees that my pesto stays green for days (if stored with a layer of plastic wrap clinging directly to surface of pesto) in the refrigerator. I find it’s best to eat fresh pesto within 2-3 days, because the fresh garlic becomes increasingly pungent as time elapses.
Also, this is not a piping hot pasta dish. It is served at room temperature. The cold veggies will cool down the pasta and prevent it from overheating the basil in the pesto. This is also a great make ahead dish. Just make sure you remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes in advance for optimal eating temperature.
1/2 box pasta (to yield 4 cups cooked)
1 lb asparagus (washed and trimmed)
2 ears of corn, shucked and rinsed
1 cup of cooked chickpeas, drained and patted dry
1/2 cup basil pesto (recipe below)
freshly cracked black pepper
grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
- Pesto Ingredients
2 cups basil leaves, clean and DRY
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
- Make basil pesto using directions below.
- Basil Pesto
- When it comes to pesto, your food processor is not your friend. That is because it creates too much surface area, and exposes the basil to lots of oxygen, turning it brown. A blender, or tall receptacle and immersion blender is better. Place oil in blender or tall receptacle if using an immersion blender. Add garlic and only a third of your basil leaves. Cover your basil COMPLETELY with olive oil and blend (This is a vital step. It’s what prevents the basil from browning). Add another third of your basil, cover completely with oil, and blend. Repeat with remaining basil. Add pine nuts and pulse until incorporated into basil purée. By hand, stir in grated cheese and Kosher salt. Set aside while you prepare pasta.
- Bring 4 quarts of water and 2 tbsp Kosher salt to a boil in a large pot. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice, then add enough water so bowl is 2/3 full.
- Once water boils, add asparagus. Cook for about one minute then remove asparagus using a strainer (I use this one, called spider strainer), and plunge asparagus immediately into your ice bath. Do not drain the water used to cook asparagus as you will use it shortly for corn.
- Once asparagus is chilled, remove it from ice bath and let it drain in a colander. Add more ice to ice bath because you will use it for corn.
- Bring water used to cook asparagus back to a boil. Add corn to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove corn with tongs or strainer and plunge immediately into ice bath. Once chilled, remove corn from ice bath and move to cutting board. Towel dry corn, cut kernels off cob, and place kernels in a large bowl.
- Cook pasta according to instructions. While pasta is boiling, lightly towel dry asparagus. Slice asparagus into coins and add to bowl with corn. Add chickpeas to bowl.
- Once pasta is cooked, add to bowl with corn, asparagus, and chick peas. Add pesto to bowl and toss to distribute evenly. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.
- Serve immediately. Pass around additional Parmesan cheese.
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