Pasta With Chopped Pesto and Peas
This pesto doesn’t call for a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle — and it’s better for it. Instead, all of the elements are chopped and mashed together by hand. (Pesto means “to pound, crush or smash” in Italian.) In Tuscany, this would be done with a half moon-shaped mezzaluna, but a chef’s knife does the job, too. The result is a more textured mix with bright pops of flavor, like a sauce, herb salad and nut garnish in one. Basil and pine nuts are classic choices, but this version, “I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To),” by Ali Slagle (Clarkson Potter, 2022), was guided by the pesto ratio in “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat. It works with whatever soft herbs and nuts that you like and have on hand.
- Serves: 4 persons
- Kosher salt
- ½cup raw walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, almonds or a combination
- 2ounces Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1large garlic clove
- 2packed cups soft herbs, such as basil, parsley, mint, or arugula
- ½cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1pound curly pasta, such as casarecce or fusilli
- 2cups (10 ounces) frozen peas
Step 1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small or medium skillet over medium, toast nuts, shaking the skillet occasionally until browned (try one to see), 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board to cool.
Step 2As the nuts cool, into a large bowl, grate the Parmesan on the small holes of a box grater (or pulse chunks in a blender).
Step 3Add the garlic clove and a pinch of salt to the pile of nuts and coarsely chop the nuts and garlic together. Add a handful of the herbs and another pinch of salt, and coarsely chop. (Opt for forceful, purposeful chops as opposed to soft, timid ones.) Toss and smash the mixture every few chops. Repeat with the remaining herbs, salting at each step, until a wet, coarse paste forms. Stir into the cheese, then stir in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 4Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the peas to the pasta. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain. Add the pasta and peas to the pesto and stir to combine. Add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, more oil and more Parmesan.