Make Ahead

Creamy Raw Asparagus Pesto

March 15, 2011
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Makes About 1 1/2 cups (enough to sauce 1 pound of pasta)
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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 Greens —Weekly Greens

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • EmilyC
  • lorigoldsby
  • mrslarkin
  • boulangere
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

14 Reviews

Ethyl June 20, 2019
Made this for dinner tonight -- we have a glut of asparagus from our CSA and I was looking for something different to do with it. This was so good! We could hardly keep from eating it out of the food processor while the pasta cooked lol!
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.
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?
hardlikearmour May 6, 2011
Thanks, lg, it makes an awesome dip!
mrslarkin March 17, 2011
This sounds really great!!
hardlikearmour March 17, 2011
thanks, mrslarkin! It's ridiculously easy, too.
boulangere March 16, 2011
What a wonderful idea!
hardlikearmour March 16, 2011
Thanks, boulangere. Asparagus = spring!
healthierkitchen March 16, 2011
Great flavor combination!
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!
hardlikearmour March 16, 2011
Thank you! It's easy and tasty.