There is no doubt that pasta is one of the most comforting foods. If you’re looking for an alternative to serving it coated in a red sauce, this light yet creamy Primavera Pesto Pasta recipe featuring mint and peas offers a fresh take perfectly suited to spring. This quick and satisfying dish incorporates a pesto alternative inspired by a preparation from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (remember when he was the Naked Chef?).
1 T butter (it’s okay to substitute olive oil if that’s all you have)
3 cloves chopped garlic (more or less if you prefer)
1 T flour
1 cup milk (for cooking I usually don’t use anything less than 2%)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup mixed greens (I used a mix of spinach, baby kale, and baby bok choy)
1 bunch of fresh mint
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup almonds or pistachios
Parmesan cheese to grate over top
1 – 8 ounce box of pasta
NOTE: be sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil in order to cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions. When it is done, reserve one cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. The starchy water will be used to help make the sauce.
While the pasta is cooking, put a medium size pan (I use a 2 ¾ quart size) over medium heat and add the butter. After the butter has melted, add the garlic and saute until it’s beautifully aromatic and begins to soften. Then, add the flour and stir for a minute or so. As the flour cooks it will start to dry out the mixture in the pan. Next, add the milk all at once (if you add it bit by bit the mixture may end up lumpy). Whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken.
After the sauce has thickened, add the peas, mixed greens, and mint. Stir periodically until peas are no longer frozen, 2-3 minutes. Blitz the mixture with an immersion blender until you reach desired level of consistency – either rustic style with a few bits of veggies or completely smooth. However, if you don’t have an immersion blender, you could use a food processor or traditional blender. Voila, you have sauce!
Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce. Now add some of the cooking water and use tongs to help the sauce coat the pasta. I usually start out adding about half a cup and sometimes that is enough. It all depends on how thick you want your sauce.
Last, sprinkle the finished dish with nuts, grate some cheese over top, and serve.
These days, it’s not uncommon to run out of basic ingredients. Keep in mind that this preparation can easily be modified. If you have basil or parsley on hand, you can use either (or both) of those instead of mint. Use whatever pasta you have on hand – spaghetti or penne, traditional or gluten free. I happened to use a gluten free supergrain spaghetti.
Wine Pairing for Pesto Primavera Pasta
In general, a zippy white wine with some citrus overtones plays nicely with the lemon in this dish. Alternatively, a savory, herbaceous wine such as Gruner Veltliner could complement the herbs and greens nicely.