Asparagus Pesto Pasta



The first weekend on May marked the return of the weekly grower’s market in my little town. The market had mostly starter plants for sale – tomatoes, flowers, herbs, and the like. But there were also a few spring veggies here and there, like pea shoots and asparagus, both of which I picked up. I tossed the pea shoots into a stir fry and saved the asparagus for a quick spring dish: asparagus pesto pasta.

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I pieced this recipe together from six or seven others that I found online last year, tweaking it to meet my taste. A few more pine nuts, a bit less oil, a clove more garlic…you get the idea.

Asparagus pesto is bright and zingy, just like spring. It’s also kind of similar to pesto made with basil. It has the same consistency and is great tossed with pasta and topped with cherry tomatoes, additional pine nuts, and extra parmesan cheese. You could also throw in some chicken, if you’re feeling a little more carnivorous. It will be lovely either way.


Asparagus Pesto Pasta


  • 1 1/4 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 3/4 lb. pasta
  • 1/4 c. + 3 tbs. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 large (or 3 small) cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • cherry tomatoes


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While the water is heating, break off the rough ends of the asparagus stalks. Slice the remaining stalks into 2-inch pieces. Add them to the boiling water for about a minute, and then use a slotted spoon to remove them to a strainer. Run cold water over the asparagus to stop them from cooking. Keep the water boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  3. Set aside about half of the asparagus tips. Place the remainder in a food processor along with 1/4 cup of the pine nuts and all of the parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse all of ingredients five or six times, until they start to break up. Then, with the processor running, add the olive oil. Scrape down the sides of the processor and continue processing until the pesto is smooth.
  4. Drain the pasta, then toss it with the asparagus pesto. Before serving, top the pasta with the reserved asparagus tips, remaining toasted pine nuts, cherry tomato halves, and extra parmesan cheese.