spinach and pea pesto pasta… served two ways

May 23rd, 2009 · 30 Comments

or maybe it’s not a pesto. i’m really not quite sure as there’s no cheese or nuts in this first version although in the second dish, both of those are added in a non-classical way. but regardless, i came home one afternoon last week and once again decided to cook by what needed ‘to go’. a very large container of baby spinach was still looking good, but 8 days after purchase, needed to be used. so that was the basis for what then became 2 fabulous dinners.

i’m on a mission to make a dent in what currently exists in my kitchen, as i’m wondering if the over abundance of food is acting as a sort of psychological stronghold, protecting everything from my safety to my image. so it’s time to lighten the freezer load, use some of the pricey condiments i’ve collected – and take cues from my voluptuous pantry. it’s springtime after all… and there’s nothing like a good purge.

i just find this to be beyond gorgeous…

the day before, i’d taken all of 15 minutes out of my life to reorganize my sizable freezer. seriously, it took only a mere 15 minutes and it shed a lot of light on what we’ll be eating these coming weeks. but for this dish i grabbed the 1/3 of a bag of frozen peas, a little ziplock of my fresh breadcrumbs and the very last bit of chris’s guanciale.

from the fridge came basil leaves – also needing an immediate purpose, peeled garlic cloves (thank you bittman) and the expensive bottle of verjus that was bought 2 years ago and barely used. luckily, it keeps…

into the processor went the spinach, peas (still frozen) and garlic. i used some ligurian olive oil but tried to keep it light, drizzling in the verjus for both a brightness aspect and the needed liquid. salt and pepper were added, the breadcrumbs were folded in by hand and salted water was put on to boil.

i diced up the little piece of guanciale, threw it in a pan until it rendered its fat and browned slightly. the "pesto" was then added along with some pasta water to loosen. the pasta was cooked and drained. simple.

but can we talk about these noodles? because for those of you that missed it – you need to have a look here. in a blind taste test, new york magazine had three top italian chefs and one ‘eater’ judge 8 brands of spaghetti. trader joe’s pasta, the inexpensive underdog came in first among some pretty surprising contenders. the very close second is the brand that i mail order on a regular basis and is 8x the price. and now i think we all know what i’ll be buying from here on in. the pasta pictured above is tj’s and it was just excellent in every way. who knew?

and then there was this dish…

lesley came for dinner the next night. she’s one of those incorruptible vegetarians. no pork for lesley. so out came the little grape tomatoes i’d bought that day, pignoli’s from the freezer and what was left of some 2 week old fontina cheese. the pasta, lazzaroli’s red pepper linguine, had been in my freezer for easily 6 months (and still in excellent condition) and would fit in just perfectly. while the water heated, pignoli’s were thrown in a pan until they took on a bit of color, the spinach pesto base was added along with the tomatoes, now sliced in half. when the pasta was cooked i took some of the liquid and added that to the pan, the linguine went in and everything was tossed together. fontina was added and – dinner.

pesto, schmesto – whatever it was, it was all wonderful…

Tags: pasta · pesto

30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jennifer Hess // May 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Yum. Lovely. I’m hungry and I want both of those now, please. 🙂

  • 2 nithya at hungrydesi // May 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Looks great! I’m going to have to try TJs pasta. I made a batch of pesto a few weeks back -we had it on pasta, then on toasted baguette slices as bruschetta and then mixed with tofu and veggie for a breakfast scramble. Its versatility is great!

  • 3 Maggie // May 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    This looks lovely and even further feeds into my “make anything into pesto” phase. I’ve got a fridge full of a bunch of stuff that’s about to get pureed or mashed or crushed. Thanks for sharing, Claudia!

  • 4 Donald // May 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Call it whatever you like, just pass me a bowlful.

  • 5 lisaiscooking // May 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Both versions look great. I want some of that red pepper linguine. Have you had Poschiavo pastas? I’ve heard good things.

  • 6 Foodie at Fifteen // May 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    incorruptable vegetarian eh?…

    spaghetti looks delicious

  • 7 katiek @kitchensidecar // May 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    i like the guanciale bit. now i’m hungry.

  • 8 Lauren // May 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    i’m drooling over the second dish. the first sounds more delicious than it is pictured, lovely as the picture is. it looks too basic, whereas the second picture looks hearty and flavorful. i’m sure though that with chris’s guanciale it was quite more than it appears.

  • 9 Ethel // May 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Such a great feeling to open the freezer and clean it out and discover things in it you almost forgot but had to have.
    I had to look up the word guaniale. Shows you how much I know.
    Enjoy your blog and am learning a lot too.

  • 10 Flora // May 23, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Wish I lived in Nashville – or closer by to taste some of those amazing C.Y. pasta dishes -Yum!
    Uncle B. is not an adventurous eater. Remember he still loves a P&J sandwich on white bread for lunch!

  • 11 claudia // May 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    wow – the two sissy’s! flora and ethel! greenbaum’s unite!

    lauren – it’s family hour! hi honey. from where oh where could you have possibly gotten that critical eye???

    katiek – guanciale is in my top 3 porks…

    foodie at 16 – listen up young man, there is no ‘a’ in incorrigible. FAIL! but your food is a total A+ plus extra credit.

    lisa – never heard of it but i’ll keep an eye out. it better be a buck though…

    jennifer and donald – my door is always open…

    maggie – pesto or a bean dish. anything goes!

    nithya – hi! and welcome to ceF! i agree… pesto on anything. anytime. sign me up.


    bob del grosso has set the record straight. and he would know…


    “Nuts and cheese are not required to make pesto. Tradition demands that pesto is herbs mashed in a mortar with a pestle (pesto is derived from pestare which means to crush in a mortar). So it is a pesto if you made it with a mortar and pestle and it is not if you made it in a blender, food processor etc.”

  • 12 claudia // May 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    in other words – NONE OF US are making pesto except rachel eats…


  • 13 Lesley // May 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

    And Chris and I are so grateful for the leftovers! We had them over penne last night…minus the pig, of course. But I thought it was better over the Lazzaroli pasta, which I will attempt to replicate in the near future (ha! we’ll see…).

  • 14 rach // May 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I didn’t actually make it, but I did watch while Vincenzo pounded……and then I ate.
    like the pea and spinach combo, it all looks delicious and real and honest as usual. YES,adding some water the pasta was cooked in – one of the best things i have learned in the kitchen recently.

  • 15 Michelle @ Find Your Balance // May 25, 2009 at 7:45 am

    It all looks wonderful! What a healthy and versatile idea.

  • 16 maybelles mom // May 25, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Leslie must be incorruptible; if even you can’t get her to eat the pork.

  • 17 SpinachTiger // May 25, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Anyway you can get peas into a pesto is good for me!

  • 18 Samantha // May 25, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I think that the top photo is so beautiful. Clean and kind of pure food. I will try this one but alas – no guanciale.

  • 19 chefectomy // May 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    It looks “voluptuous” Claudia – Molto bene!


  • 20 rebekka // May 25, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Have you seen the show “chopped” on the Food Network? I get very, very sucked in to it. You need to be on it. You would do VERY well. I would do horribly.

  • 21 Becky and the Beanstock // May 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Funny — I was going to leave a comment on the actual definition of pesto (but you beat me to it). So nope, we’re not making pesto — and I’m probably not going to start. Sure, it’s therapeutic to bang around with the stone mortar and pestle but… eventually it would become a little like making puff pastry from scratch! I made a radish leaf pesto this weekend — no herbs involved. It was surprisingly good and quite lovely to look at.

  • 22 Rachel (S[d]OC) // May 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I am on the fence here. I believe that “pesto” doesn’t have to contain nuts and cheese and is about the method of just crushing up ingredients, but I’m not such a purist that I feel a pestle is needed for it to be called pesto.

    I can related to the clean out the kitchen thing. Last year I had cabinets full of many kinds of starchy products (rice, barley, couscous, polenta). After using up most of it, I’d say my kitchen was never so well stocked again. As I addressed in another post, I don’t think I’ll ever be as well stocked as you.

  • 23 Joy // May 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    And yet another example of great Italian cooking – even if you took some liberties. The blog is just wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to share htis food!

    I make pestos often – just whatever is laying around gets thrown in. I like the idea of the frozen peas.

  • 24 we are never full // May 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    considering pesto is anything pounded and you used a processor, i’d say it prob. ain’t a pesto. but in my world, it is. have you ever friggin’ pounded a pesto before????? after making one the legit way i realized WHY the food processor was invented – it’s b/c of pesto! it’s a real biznatch and did provide gorgeous results but only if you have the patience, time and muscle. and i drank a bottle of wine during it and even THAT didn’t help!

  • 25 Marie // May 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    This post encourages me to go into my stock piled pantry and start using up the things I have there. I agree your pesto is beyond gorgeous!

  • 26 PB // May 27, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Yum. Lovely. I’m hungry and I want both of those now, please. 🙂

  • 27 sarah // May 27, 2009 at 3:11 am

    that pesto (or blendo) looks truly delicious…

    i’ve been making pesto using the green leaves of my radishes and that is pretty tasty also, but must try spinach and peas, that looks far too good to pass up!

    and trader joe’s for pasta, who would have thunk it… we get it at aldi here in berlin, so must go see if they have any…

  • 28 goodfoodmatters // May 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

    many thanks for the pasta comparison link; who knew indeed? I often use DeCecco, will have to try the Traders.
    I’m all about Use What You’ve Got and love all these pesto variations.

  • 29 Julia // May 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Yay for using up what’s in the fridge and freezer! Looks beautiful to me!

    I almost never buy anything from TJ’s because I don’t like how they prepackage all the produce. But I’m intrigued by the pasta. Hmm…

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