Make Ahead

Creamy Raw Asparagus Pesto

March 15, 2011
Photo by Julia Gartland
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

  • 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.

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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.