20 Minute Parslied Pea Pesto Pasta is a quick and easy vegetarian dinner perfect for busy weeknights. Kid-friendly and great for make-ahead lunches.
This lightning-fast pasta with sweet peas, peppery parsley, salty Pecorino, and bright pops of lemon is as good as it gets for weeknight pasta. It's light, yet packs bold flavor; nutritious, yet supremely satisfying; and, best of all, comes together in 20 minutes.
Plus, this recipe pairs well with just about any protein: sautéed shrimp, roasted chicken, edamame, or baked white fish. Another perk is that it calls for frozen peas, which are dependable and efficient. You could certainly use fresh peas instead, however frozen make this recipe even more evergreen and weeknight-approved.
What is Pea Pesto Made Of?
In short, this springtime twist on traditional pesto is made with few ingredients, yet packs a big flavor punch. The sweetness of peas compliments the peppery bite of parsley and sharpness of Pecorino cheese beautifully. In addition, lemon juice brightens the dish with lively aromas, while fresh mint lends cooling freshness.
I love using parsley in place of basil because its mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to shine through.
What is Pesto Used For?
The beauty of this pesto recipe is that it's highly versatile. For example, you could double the batch and use leftovers as a spread for crostinis or a condiment for sandwiches or burgers. Additionally, it can be thinned out with extra oil and used as a salad dressing!
Should Pine Nuts Be Toasted?
In short, pine nuts should be toasted to help activate their oils and heighten their flavor. To toast, simply throw them on a baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes, until aromatic. Alternatively, you can toast them in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until golden.
Should I Use a Food Processor or Blender for Pesto?
Either a food processor or blender will work for this pesto, however the former will keep flecks of herb leaves intact. This is essentially an aesthetic decision, so feel free to use whichever one you prefer.
Cooking Al Dente Pasta:
One important note for this recipe is that you should cook the spaghetti until ALMOST al dente. This gives the pasta a chance to finish cooking in the pesto sauce before it gets mushy. Additionally, it allows the starches in the pasta to thicken and enrich the pesto sauce, while making sure every strand is evenly coated.
If you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful spring creations!
More Easy Pasta Dinners:
20 Minute Parslied Pea Pesto Pasta
- 12 oz. dry spaghetti
- ½ cup fresh or frozen/thawed green peas
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
- 3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts plus more for garnish
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese plus more for garnish (sub Parmesan)
- 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cups fresh arugula
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until almost al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain remaining. Return cooked pasta back to pot and place over burner with heat turned off.
- WHILE PASTA COOKS: Prepare pesto by combining green peas, parsley, mint, nuts, lemon juice, cheese, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Begin blending while gradually streaming in olive oil until mixture is smooth.
- Immediately following adding cooked pasta back to pot, add butter and toss with pasta until melted. Add pesto and use tongs to toss and coat. Gradually stream in pasta water in ¼ cup increments, tossing continuously, until pesto sauce clings to noodles and desired consistency is achieved (you may not need all the pasta water, but better to have extra for insurance). Remove from burner and add arugula; toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with additional pine nuts and cheese, if desired.