It is approaching BBQ season and if you are an invited guest, you will most likely be asked to bring a salad or a side. I am never the friend who brings a green salad. I mean, I'll bring a green colored salad, but it's going to be pasta 99.9% of the time. Because nothing goes better with the carb heavy dinners of summer (hotdog and hamburger buns, chips, beer) than pasta salad. Carbs + carbs + carbs with pesto = happy bellies.
This recipe is a family favorite and originally came from Barefoot Contessa Parties. It's not the cheapest to make - pine nuts always make me cry a little when I pay for them - but if you have basil in your garden or find it at the farmer's market, you can cut the cost down a bunch by making your own pesto. If you buy the pesto, get the good refrigerated kind (not the jarred stuff in the tomato sauce aisle.)
You can also modify this recipe easily to taste. If you want it less rich, you can cut down on the mayo (don't omit completely though as it does add a lot of flavor and helps the pesto stick to the noodles.) If you don't want to buy the pine nuts, you don't have to - but they are my favorite part.
I hope you give it a try…
Pesto Pasta with Peas & Pine Nuts Salad (PPPP Salad)
4-6 servings (main)
8-10 servings (side)
1 1/2 pounds dry pasta (it's fun to use two different shapes like half rotini and half bow-tie) 1/4 cup olive oil 1 1/2 cups pesto 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 cup mayonnaise 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 cups frozen peas 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 3/4 tsp - course salt (kosher or Maldon sea salt) 3/4 tsp - freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta according to the package direction and drain. Transfer pasta to large bowl and toss with olive oil. Let cool to room temperature.
While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts. Add them to a dry, non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and stir constantly until they turn light brown and give off a toasted aroma. Watch like a hawk! They can go from un-toasted to burned in a split second. When toasted, remove from heat and pour in a clean bowl to cool.
Defrost and squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible. I do this by hand over a colander or you can put the spinach inside a kitchen towel and squeeze. I just prefer not to turn my kitchen towels green.
Add the pesto, spinach, lemon juice (use fresh whenever possible) to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. If you use a blender and the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it is able to blend. Add the mayonnaise and continue to puree again until smooth.
Add the pesto mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Add the Parmesan cheese, peas, pine nuts and salt and pepper (I add the peas frozen because they defrost quickly once mixed in.) Stir gently to combine.