Pasta, Pesto and Peas is the best of everything - it's creamy (but not oily), salty, pretty and gets a sweet pop from the green peas. A super bonus is that you get to make The BC's homemade pinenut, walnut and basil pesto, which leaves you with leftovers to enjoy with another dish, or freeze for later.
Pinenuts, pesto, peas and parm - win, win, win, win.
The Barefoot Contessa's Pasta, Pesto and Peas
from Barefoot Contessa Parties! page 101
3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow-tie pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups homemade pesto
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis, toasted (optional - but not if I'm making this!)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling, salted water, according to directions until each pasta is al dente. Drain and add to a large bowl.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and continue to puree.
Add the pesto mixture immediately to the pasta, then add the Parmesan cheese, peas, pignolis, salt and pepper. Mix well, season to taste and serve at room temperature.
A few notes:
+ Flex your multi-tasking skills with this one - if you get all ingredients prepped, you can blend the sauce while the pasta cooks, and then you have nice, warm pasta to absorb the beautiful sauce. I think that warm pasta + sauce, versus the alternative, gives this a little flavor boost.
+ The BC offers this note on dry roasting pignolis, which works for any nut, really: place them in a dry saute pan and cook over medium heat, for about 4 minutes, until evenly browned, tossing frequently. You will smell the wonderful oils of the pine nuts as they toast. Yum.
+ The recipe above yields a very healthy portion; enough for 12+ adults (we stretched it to 14 when served as a side salad), plus leftovers. I would recommend it as a great make-ahead meal for a crowd.