Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Labor Day Dish - Lemony Pea and Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad

With Labor Day weekend approaching, I’d imagine that people are buying charcoal for their grill, filling their fridge with beer, and figuring out what to make to accompany whatever meat they intend to grill. If you’re looking for something in the pasta salad department, I just might have the recipe for you!

My mother made this pasta salad about one month ago, and I was lucky enough to be around to try it. I could not get over how fresh it tasted. The bright flavor of the lemon zest, the freshness of the mint, and the cool green color from the pureed green peas create a unique dish that is not your typical pasta salad. As the ingredients might seem a bit obscure for a pasta salad (fresh mint?), I beg you to try. You will be surprised and you will be pleased.

This dish serves quite well at room temperature, as a good picnic salad should. I used a tri-color pasta which I think gives the dish even more color, although it is not necessary. I used toasted pine nuts (which I keep a huge bag of from Costco my freezer) instead of pistachios. The Pecorino Romano cheese gives this dish quite a sharp, salty bite. I’m usually all for finding more convenient substitutes, and while I think Parmigiano-Reggiano could work, it is worth to purchase a hunk of Pecorino Romano because it really does add to the flavor. The mint in my “garden” has been struggling lately, and I only had enough for one tablespoon. I added basil (of which I have plenty) for the second tablespoon. I also added some more Pecorino Romano and pine nuts to garnish the dish before serving.

This is also a great make ahead dish. So 'wow' your friends and family this weekend with this pasta salad, and have a safe and relaxing weekend!

Lemony Pea and Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad
(From Cook's Country Best Grilling Recipes)
Serves 8 to 10

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

1 pound penne pasta or fusilli or campanelle
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/4 frozen peas , thawed
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios , toasted and chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove , minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook until just past al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water. Drain pasta in colander, rinse with cold water until cool, drain once more, and transfer to large bowl.

2. Puree ricotta and 2 tablespoons hot pasta water in food processor until smooth. Add 3/4 cup peas, 1/4 cup pistachios, Pecorino Romano, oil, garlic, mint, zest, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and puree until smooth. Stir pesto into pasta until well coated, adding reserved pasta water as needed to adjust consistency. Fold in remaining peas and pistachios. Season with salt. Serve.

Make-Ahead: This salad can be refrigerated for 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving and thin salads with a few tablespoons of warm water if needed.

1 comment:

  1. MMMMMMMMMMMM! That was awesome. I just ate your Pesto Pasta salad. It hit the spot. I like the fact that you roast the pine nuts. Thank you for the snack.

    Tom B