Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Penne Rigate with Spinach-Asparagus Pesto


By Leslie Budewitz

When you hear pesto, you think of a dense, bright green sauce with the pungent taste and smell of basil, olive oil, and Parmesan, don’t you? And maybe a hint of pine nuts or walnuts.

Friends, the world of tasty pesto is so much bigger. Now, I adore the stuff. There’s a recipe for it in my first Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, Death al Dente, and one for Erin’s Two-Bean Salad with Basil Pesto in the second book in the series, Crime Rib. In our home garden, we plant way more basil than we can eat so we can chop it up at the end of the season with oil and Parmesan and freeze it in ice cube trays for winter fun. We put it on pasta, of course, but also on chicken and in puff pastry and in salad dressings and just about anything else we can think of. (I had chocolate cake with basil creme anglaise in Paris. Still drooling over that one.)

But: Artichoke pesto. Cilantro and pumpkin seed pesto, perfect on salmon. Parsley pesto. And this, based on a recipe I spotted on the Williams-Sonoma blog. Both Mr. Right and I adore asparagus, so what’s not to love?

Ah, spring.

First, a word about ricotta salata. I don’t have access to a good cheese shop, and no local groceries carry it, a dryish, molded form of ricotta. So I made my own by draining half a cup of whole milk ricotta. Not perfect, but it worked, although we had to spoon it in rather than shave it. I think shaved Asiago, the fresher the better, would be terrific, too.

Penne Rigate with Spinach-Asparagus Pesto  

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove
1 cup spinach leaves, tough stems removed
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
8 ounces penne rigate or rigatoni
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese or Asiago, shaved with a vegetable peeler
salt and fresh ground pepper

Fill a large pot with water; add salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until fork-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a colander and rinse under cold water. Don’t empty out the water pot!



Set a quarter of the asparagus aside, including spears. Put the rest of the asparagus in a food processor. Add the garlic, spinach, walnuts, and Parmesan and process until finely chopped. Add the olive oil (some machines will let you drizzle it in while the blade is spinning) until well combined. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.






 Meanwhile, return the pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.




Stir in the asparagus pesto and the reserved asparagus pieces. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the ricotta salata shavings. Serve immediately.


Serves 4.

Leslie's next book, BUTTER OFF DEAD, 3d in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, will be published July 7 by Berkley Prime Crime. Read an excerpt and follow the links to pre-order on the BUTTER page of her website.

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Coming in July 2015: BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries!

Connect with her on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

16 comments:

  1. Sounds great. I have had a red bell pepper pesto, it was delicious. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. OOh, yummy! Fresca in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries makes a roasted red pepper pesto -- one of the Merc's best sellers!

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  2. This sounds very interesting! Thanks!

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    2. Oops! Started to comment thinking of a different asparagus recipe we just made -- asparagus, leek, and morel lasagna! Mmmm -- love spring veggies!

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  3. This sounds like a mega winner! We love asparagus.
    I imagine regular (undrained) ricotta would be nice, too. Then a little sprinkle of extra Parm.
    OK Time to eat!

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    1. I think so, too, Libby. Experiment and enjoy!

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    1. Thanks, MJ -- "pretty" is such an important ingredient!

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  5. Beautiful dish for spring, Leslie, and ricotta salata -- that is one of my favorite cheeses! Great determination in setting out to make your own. Cheers and have a delicious week. ~ Cleo

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  6. This sounds wonderful, Leslie. I bought more pesto, er, basil plants than we need this year. Hope to make lots of pesto!

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    1. Krista, there is no such thing as too much basil!

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