Thanks to Sprouts Farmers' Market for sponsoring this posts

Overheard near the buffet table at a recent potluck supper:

First woman:

I’m worried I didn’t bring enough asparagus. It’s nearly gone.

Second woman:

I’m worried I brought too much pasta. Who eats carbs anymore?

Me! I wanted to say. Me! I eat carbs.

But since I didn’t want to be outed for eavesdropping, I kept my mouth shut.

Here’s the soapbox I wanted to jump on and shout out to the whole room:

Carbohydrate-rich foods are an important part of a healthy diet, people. Yes, aim for quality carbohydrates, but don’t believe the hype that says carbs will make you sick or fat or grow hair in your ears. Barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread, black beans, lentils, chick peas, broccoli, and papaya are all carb-heavy and all undeniably good for you. And yes, there’s room for pasta, too, a food that’s been painted as the devil among certain carb-o-phobes I’ve encountered.

Spring Vegetable Pesto Pasta

Consider today’s recipe for Spring Vegetable Pesto Pasta, a delicious supper that fits into a high-quality diet. Here’s why:

  • It packs in the produce. The recipe calls for two cups of fresh herbs and upwards of four cups of vegetables.
  • Including all that greenery leaves a little less room for a heaping pile of pasta. Translation: it’s a balanced plate that comes in at about 400 calories a serving.
  • You can use whatever stripe of pasta that suits you. Sprouts Farmers’ Market has an excellent selection of standard, gluten-free, and whole grain options, including the organic penne I used in this recipe.
  • The pesto is a source of healthy fats thanks to the extra-virgin olive oil and nuts. This is also part of what makes the dish satisfying and gives it a flavorful kick.

Vegetable Pesto Pasta

Vegetable Pesto Pasta
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Spring Vegetable Pesto Pasta

A pasta that is as bright, fresh, and green as the first asparagus stalks and pea pods to show up in early spring. The recipe is much heavier in vegetables and lighter in pasta than your typical plate of pasta. The pesto, made of equal parts basil and mint, pulls it all together. 

Ingredients

  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 packed cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 small clove peeled garlic
  • 3 tablespoons pinenuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to pass at the table
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup English peas, fresh or frozen (defrosted)
  • 2 small jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 8 ounces Sprouts organic penne pasta

Instructions

  1. Fill a medium pot with water and add enough salt that it tastes slightly salty. Bring it to a boil over high heat and add the pasta.

  2. While the pasta cooks, put the basil, mint, garlic, pinenuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor and run until blended into a loose paste, scraping down the sides and running again, as needed. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. 
  3. Cook the pasta until nearly done. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling water and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until the asparagus is just barely tender. Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water before draining. 

  4. Transfer pasta, asparagus, peas, and drained artichoke hearts to a large bowl. Add as much pesto as desired and stir well. Add a little of the cooking water, if needed, to moisten the pasta a bit.

  5. Serve with Parmesan on the side.

Vegetable Pesto Pasta