As I was planting my basil garden this past weekend, dreaming of all the summer dishes it would soon be a part of, I remembered that I still had pesto in the freezer from last year’s basil crop. D’oh! (forehead slap)
I do what might be considered a medium level of preserving, both canning and freezing. I make the effort in the fall and winter to use up the more time-sensitive freezer goodies, like sliced peppers and squash, but the other freezer-hardy items — like small jelly jars of pesto — tend to work their way to the back wall and stay there, forgotten, until the summer clean-out when I make room for fresh preserves.
Between the pesto and the load of fresh, plump peas that had appeared seemingly overnight in the garden, dinner was starting to take shape.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but one of my very favorite reasons to have a garden is that meal-planning comes so easily — step out the back door and see what’s available. Same with farmers’ markets — take a quick loop around the stalls to note the producers’ offerings du jour, step back … and compose.
It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I discovered the wonder of fresh peas. Having grown up on canned peas, I didn’t mind the flavor, but the mushy quality left something to be desired. I thought that was it. Peas = mush.
Fresh peas, however, are bright and snappy — I love their texture. I grow mostly sugar snaps, which you can eat right off the vine, pod and all (the sweet little flowers from last week’s post? There are now about a dozen pods, some ready for picking — Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me).
Of course, I had to throw radishes into this dish. Aside from having tons of radishes to spare, their peppery bite is welcome in this pasta, as is the bright splash of color. As summer takes hold and the radishes fade away, I’ll use bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers and/or scallions.
If you have pesto already prepared, this is a super-easy weeknight side dish that comes together in minutes. Or add some grilled chicken and serve as a main course.
Pesto Pea Pasta Salad
I prefer my pasta salads to have a light coating of dressing, and this recipe reflects that. If you prefer a thick, creamy dressing with your pasta, up the mayo to 1/2 cup, plus an extra big squeeze of lemon juice.
12 ounces dried pasta (your choice of shape — I like wagon wheels or fusilli)
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto (or make homemade)
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1 squeeze lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly shucked peas
1 big handful fresh spinach leaves, sliced chiffonade or roughly chopped
1/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced (or other in-season vegetable of your choice)
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
2. Prepare the dressing by combining the pesto, yogurt, mayo, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Stir the cooled pasta into the dressing, mixing well.
3. Blanch the peas and spinach in a small pot of salted, boiling water for several minutes, until both turn a bright green. (Tip: I place the peas and spinach in a deep, heat-proof strainer and set the strainer over the pot of water, partially submerged.) Drain and rinse the vegetables with cold water to stop the cooking.
4. Fold the peas, spinach and radishes (or other vegetables) into the pasta and toss gently to coat with the dressing.
5. May be served immediately or chilled for an hour in the fridge.