Creamy Raw Asparagus Pesto

March 15, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This is a mash-up of Anne Burrell’s raw asparagus salad and ricotta pesto. While watching "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef," I saw Chef Burrell making a raw asparagus salad. I practically ran to the grocery to get the ingredients, found it to be delicious, and have made it multiple times since. I was inspired to turn it into a ricotta pesto while brainstorming for the contest. hardlikearmour

Food52 Review: Hardlikearmour's delightful pesto variation is an explosion of spring flavors. Classic pesto ingredients such as walnuts, olive oil, and cheese provide a solid foundation, but the asparagus steals the show by adding a more substantial texture and captivating color (not to mention a nutritional boost!). We served it as a spread with crackers and toasted baguette slices and it quickly vanished. — Weekly GreensWeekly Greens

Makes: about 1 1/2 cups (enough to sauce 1 pound of pasta)


  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (or substitute pine nuts)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, quartered
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, rinsed and tough ends removed
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 ounces shredded Pecorino Romano (about 1 cup)
  • 6 ounces fresh whole milk ricotta (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt, plus more to taste
In This Recipe


  1. Place walnuts in bowl of food processor and pulse several times to coarsely chop. Add garlic and parsley and pulse several times to combine. Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing several more times. Scrape sides of bowl and pulse a few more times. Mixture should be pretty homogenous, with no large chunks of nuts or garlic.
  2. Cut asparagus stalks into about 1-inch pieces and add to bowl of food processor. Add diced onion as well. Pulse several times to combine. Asparagus will be coarsely chopped at this point. Scrape sides of bowl.
  3. Add Pecorino, ricotta, pepper, and salt. Pulse until thoroughly combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer to serving container, taste, and stir in additional salt or pepper if needed. Spread on crusty bread or use as a dip for grissini or pita chips.
  4. To use as a pasta sauce: Cook pasta as directed on package in well-salted water. Drain pasta, reserving about 2/3 cup of cooking water. Return pasta to pot and mix pesto and 1/3 cup of the cooking water in. Add more cooking water and/or olive oil if needed. Divide into bowls and garnish with some shaved Pecorino.

More Great Recipes:
Condiment/Spread|Pasta|Italian|Vegetable|Walnut|Pesto|Asparagus|Parsley|Make Ahead|Summer|Vegetarian|Gluten-Free

Reviews (13) Questions (0)

13 Reviews

Emma L. April 22, 2018
This was so, sooo delicious. Will look forward to making every spring!
EmilyC April 23, 2013
Made this the other night and it's awesome. I love both the texture and flavor of the pesto, as well as how quick and easy it is! Served it over pasta and my whole family gobbled it up.
Author Comment
hardlikearmour April 23, 2013
Yay! That makes my day!
lorigoldsby May 6, 2011
This sounds amazing! Do you ever use it as a dip for raw vegetables or on crostini?
Author Comment
hardlikearmour May 6, 2011
Thanks, lg, it makes an awesome dip!
mrslarkin March 17, 2011
This sounds really great!!
Author Comment
hardlikearmour March 17, 2011
thanks, mrslarkin! It's ridiculously easy, too.
boulangere March 16, 2011
What a wonderful idea!
Author Comment
hardlikearmour March 16, 2011
Thanks, boulangere. Asparagus = spring!
healthierkitchen March 16, 2011
Great flavor combination!
Author Comment
hardlikearmour March 16, 2011
Thanks, hk! The raw asparagus in the salad that inspired the recipes tastes a little like peas. The pesto flavor is a little reminiscent of avocado for some reason. (I sometimes have my husband taste things and guess what's in it, his first guess was avocado, so I tasted it again, and thought wow... it does taste a bit like avocado!)
gingerroot March 16, 2011
This sounds amazing! YUM!
Author Comment
hardlikearmour March 16, 2011
Thank you! It's easy and tasty.