This bright, springy take on pasta with pesto, the winner of our March 2011 Home Cook Challenge, was developed by SAVEUR reader Stevie Stacionis, who says "this recipe was developed based on a lovely spring day and lots of leftover bits in my refrigerator. It relies on a dash of improvisation and tasting as you go to get the proportions to your liking." Stevie's original recipe called for ramps and green garlic, but they weren't available while we were testing the recipe — if you don't have ramps or green garlic on hand — or if they're not in season — we found we could replicate their allium bite by substituting a combination of garlic and scallions.
- 2 packed cups flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
- 2 cups ramps, green garlic, or a mixture of 4 cloves garlic and the green parts of 4 scallions
- 1⁄2 cup walnuts
- 2 tbsp. lemon zest (from one lemon)
- 1⁄4 lemon juice (from one lemon)
- 1⁄4 Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, separated
- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 bunch thin asparagus
- 1 lb. dried thin spaghetti or cappellini
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a large mortar, toss parsley, ramps or green garlic, and walnuts; mash into a rough paste. (Alternatively you can use a blender or food processor, but the act of smashing seems to result in a more intense, nuanced flavor.)
Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, 2 tbs olive oil, salt, and pepper to the pesto mixture and mash to incorporate, tasting and adding more olive oil and seasoning, as necessary. Once the pesto is to your taste, set it aside.
Once the water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the asparagus: trim and discard any woody ends. Thinly slice the asparagus lengthwise, so it mimics the pasta in shape.
A minute before the pasta is done, add the sliced asparagus to the boiling water. After a minute, drain the pasta and asparagus, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot and toss with reserved pesto. Serve topped with a few grinds of black pepper and additional grated Parmesan.