Roasted asparagus is a wonderful side dish on its own, but combined with the usual pesto ingredients it makes for a surprising sauce that stands up to the nutty flavor of whole-wheat pasta. If you make extra pesto, freeze it in ice cube trays for year-round access to the classic flavor of spring.
Slideshows: Perfect Pesto Recipes
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
12 ounces whole-wheat linguine
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until tender and browned in spots. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the garlic with the basil, cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of salt until combined. Add the roasted asparagus and process until a smooth paste forms, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 45 seconds. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and process until just combined, about 10 seconds longer.
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the pesto in the food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
In a bowl, toss the pasta with the pesto, adding additional cooking water if necessary, until the pasta is well coated with the pesto. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Tip: Substitute broccoli or kale for a different take on this vegetable pesto. Tip: The pesto also makes a terrific sauce for a pita or English muffin pizza. Tip: Pine nuts are traditional in pesto, but try almonds, walnuts, or pistachios for an equally good sauce. One serving: 429 cal, 20 gm fat, 4 gm sat fat, 47 gm carb, 9 gm fiber, 19 gm protein.
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