I love, love, love pasta, but I try to make it a treat instead of an easy fall-back dinner. Some easy ways to do this is to use fresh pasta and to make your own sauce. For summer, my favorite sauce is just a quick and easy basil-based pesto that’s made in my food processor. It’s simple and delicious, but pesto is also perfect for the season because no heat is needed, keeping out kitchen just a little bit cooler.
Smarts: When boiling pasta, remember to salt the water like the ocean to give more flavor to your pasta. That pasta water makes a great base for a sauce.
For this pasta with pesto and peas recipe, I love using shells but feel free to use any pasta shape with ridges to ensure maximum surface area for sauciness. And speaking of sauciness, I also toss some pasta water into the final dish. This really helps the pesto coat every crevice of the pasta.
Fresh peas will be in season and if you can find them at the market, definitely take advantage of summer produce. However, I find frozen to be almost just as good and often a lot more convenient and budget friendly. Either way, peas lend the perfect sweet finish to this summery pasta treat. Garnish with extra parmesan and toasted pine nuts, and your weeknight pasta will look just as fancy as any restaurant dish.
Smarts: Leftover pesto? Use it as a sandwich spread, a sauce for a protein, or to add flavor to a weekend omelet.
Helpful tools: Food processor
- Pine nuts – ½ cup
- Basil – 4 cups loosely packed
- Garlic – 2 cloves, peeled
- Parmesan – 2 tbs. + more for garnish
- Salt – ½ tsp.
- Olive oil – ¼ to ½ cup
- Lemon – 1, juice of
- Shells – ¾ lb. (Try a fresh pasta for a fun change)
- Frozen peas – 1 cup
- Pine nuts (optional step) – Toast on a frying pan over medium-high heat until golden brown. It’s also completely fine to skip this step.
- Make pesto – Pulse basil leaves, pine nuts (reserve a few for garnish), garlic, parmesan, and salt in a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil until you get a sauce-like consistency. Squeeze in juice of ½ a lemon and season to taste with salt & pepper.
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Salt heavily (that water should taste like the ocean!) and add pasta. Cook until al dente, tender but not soggy. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the salted pasta water.
- Return saucepan to medium heat. Add in peas and cook until warmed, ~2 minutes. Add in pasta with reserved pasta water. Toss with desired amount of pesto and another squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with parmesan cheese and pine nuts.