Asparagus Pesto with Tiny Potatoes and Pasta Recipe
Valentine's Day Recipes from Razzle Dazzle Recipes


Asparagus Pesto with Tiny Potatoes and Pasta

For the pesto:
1 bunch asparagus, about 1 pound, trimmed and cooked for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water (reserve water for pasta)
1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
About 1 cup pure olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 pound marble-size potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound dried orecchiette or other pasta the same size as potatoes
About 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the cooked asparagus spears into thirds. Put in a food processor with the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind you will add Parmesan as well, so be careful not to oversalt. With the machine running, slowly add the cup of olive oil. When the sauce is about the consistency of mayonnaise, it has enough oil. Pulse in the Parmesan. Thin with water if necessary to achieve a slick, saucy pesto. Scrape into a bowl or jar, cover, and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 3 cups. (Keeps about 2 to 3 days, refrigerated.)

Put the potatoes in a pan of salted cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes. If the potatoes are larger than about 1/2 inch in diameter, cut in half.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the potatoes and cook until browned and crispy all over, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

While the potatoes are browning, return the water used for cooking the asparagus, if reserved, to a boil or bring a new pot of water to a boil. Add more salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain through a colander, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Pour the pasta into a warm serving bowl, add the potatoes, about 1 cup of the asparagus pesto, several twists of pepper, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Toss well, thinning with the pasta cooking water as necessary.

Dust with a light grating of Parmesan before serving and pass the remaining cheese and a bowl of pesto at the table.

Basil Pesto
(Makes about 3/4 cup, enough for 1 pound pasta.)

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Sea salt, preferably Gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of powdered ascorbic acid
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the basil in a large sieve and plunge it into the boiling water. Immediately immerse all the basil and stir so that it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds. Remove, shake off the excess water, then plunge the basil into the ice water bath and stir again so it cools as fast as possible. Drain well.

Squeeze the water out of the basil with your hands until very dry. Roughly chop the basil and put in a blender. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, pine nuts, and the vitamin C, if using. Blend for at least 30 seconds. In this way the green of the basil will thoroughly color the oil. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. The pesto will keep several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Notes: Don't try to make this pesto in a food processor. The processor just throws it around the bowl. A blender does a much better job. Be sure to thin the pesto with some of the hot pasta water before tossing it with pasta.

Serves: 4

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