Pea Pesto Pasta

It is no secret that I go nuts for anything with peas. Just look at the title of my blog! So imagine my excitement when I realized that I could make a sauce out of them. I mean I already made a pea guacamole on here. Maybe the obsession started with my mom when she snuck peas into my Kraft Mac and Cheese. It was love at first taste.

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This recipe is one of my favorites. You might have to be as crazy as me to love this pasta, however. It is very specific for pea lovers. The sauce literally combines a ton of peas, butter, parmesan, and garlic. How much better can you get? As a result, the pasta is tangy and sweet. With lots of pea flavor of course! And it will get you excited for the coming summer!

But I always wonder, what is the best pasta shape to pair with this sauce? There has to be some science to which goes with which! Well there is! Read on to engineer the perfect pasta meal.

There are generally three shapes of pasta. Shaped pastas, short tubular pastas, and long thin pasta. The long thin pasta are the spaghetti’s, fettuccini’s, linguine’s, etc. Due to the super long shape, they need a lot of lubrication. That’s why oily sauces work best for those. The thicker long pastas are great for heavy, creamy pastas like tagliatelle and pappardelle. The tubular pastas are the ziti’s and penne’s of your pantry. They work great for meaty sauces because the pasta is chunky as well. The hollow interior also acts as a carrier for the chunks in the sauces! So take care with the different sizes. Macaroni cannot be switched out with rigatoni. Finally the shaped pastas are the widest variety here. This class contains orecchiette, bowties, fusilli, and shells. What do all of these pastas have in common? They are the most fun! They have complex textures and ridges that act as carriers for sauces. Fusilli, for example, is shaped like a corkscrew which allows sauce like marinara to travel to the mouth. Orecchiette and shells have little pockets that carry sauces and small chunks in the sauce (like peas!). Many of these pastas also have ridges that allow for sauces to cling to the noodles.

Based on the physics of these pastas, the shaped pastas will be best for this “pea pesto.” Specifically, orecchiette and shells! Little peas will be delivered to your tongue with pillows of pasta.

Pea Pesto Pasta

Adapted from Food52

Serves 4

1 pound peas (I used frozen, but you can use fresh—1 pound following shelling)

10 ounces dry pasta: orecchiette or shells

3 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, chopped

⅓ cup parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano!), coarsely grated

Basil, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put a medium-large pot of salted water or chicken/vegetable broth on to boil for the pasta. I like to use broth because the pasta water will be used for the sauce prep, and it has more flavor.

2. Thaw and heat your peas in the microwave if using frozen peas, or cook them in a saucepan of boiling water until tender.

3. Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook until slightly browned. Take off of the heat. When pasta is done, drain noodles over a bowl to retain the pasta water. Put the noodles back in the saucepan and set aside.

4. Puree half of the peas, the garlic/butter from the skillet, ¼ cup of the grated cheese, and ¼ cup of the pasta water (use either an immersion blender—the easiest—or an upright blender). Add more pasta water if needed.

5. Toss the pasta with the sauce, remaining peas, and as much Kosher salt and cracked pepper until everything is seasoned well.

6. Serve with the remaining cheese and basil sprinkled on top.


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