For The Love of Basil: Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

Before we even begin, I must tell you that I can’t hear the phrase “Pasta, Pesto, Peas” without thinking of a certain 60s pop song by Cher. I think you know the one. And in case you don’t, I revamped the lyrics and recorded a new-garlickier version for you. Let’s hear that now, so that as we progress through the recipe we can break out into another chorus of it!

The Pasta, Pesto, Peas Song [with special thanks to Cher].

Now then, are we ready to proceed? This is what you’ll be taking to work on Wednesday. Aren’t you excited? A word of warning: your breath will reek, but you won’t care because you’ll be so sated.

Now, to make things easier, I’m going to cut and paste the actual recipe and intersperse with pictures. This is not illegal, methinks, because Ina (that’s the Barefoot Contessa to her friends and myself) has the recipe on the Food Network site. What she doesn’t have is a fabulous Cher-cover. Hit it! PASTTTAAA PESTOOO PEASSS…. sorry, got ahead of myself.

What makes this slightly complicated is that Ina’s recipe for pesto yields 4 cups and we only need 1.5. However, even after halving the original recipe I didn’t wind up with 1.5 cups so don’t worry that this will yield too much. I’m going to halve the recipe for you. Confused yet?

Here is what you need to buy and/or have ready:


1/8 cup walnuts

1/8 cup pignolis (pine nuts)

1.5 tablespoons chopped garlic (4-5 cloves)

2.5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cups good olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


3/4 pound fusilli pasta

3/4 pound bow tie pasta

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts) (optional)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

It looks like a ton, I know, but it looks worse than it is. It is, in fact, fairly reasonable EXCEPT if your basil’s expensive. That’s where I got screwed tonight. The other day at Whole Foods they had giant tubs of Basil for like $6 and those were gone today. Today they only had small containers of basil for $2 each so I had to buy five, which cost $10 just for the basil. So please shop around for your basil before you commit.

And, of course, after I paid, the cashier told me I should have bought a basil plant and saved money:

$5.49 is certainly less money than $10.

The other expensive thing is pignolis but you only officially need 1/8th of a cup, the toasted 1/3rd of a cup is optional.

So here’s your ingredients:


I know this may seem daunting but I promsie it isn’t! I’m just not used to playing pesto instructor. Did I mention that I sing Cher-covers? PASTA PESTO PEEEAAAS… sorry.

Now then, the recipe:

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.


Process for 15 seconds.


Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper.


With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil


into the bowl through the feed tube


and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed.


Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute.


Now, if you stopped here you’d have pesto. Just plain old pesto. Would you have peas? No. Would you have pasta? No. Do you see how boring that is? My point exactly.

Back to you Ina:

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

[No pictures included because if you don’t know how to cook pasta, you should be reading the AMATEUR amateur gourmet. We’re so beyond that!]

[Although, cooking al dente is an art. You need to be constantly checking the pasta after 6 or 7 minutes and tasting to make sure you don’t overcook. It makes a difference!]

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice.


Add the mayonnaise** (to my mayo haters, just don’t think about it. It’s just one of those things that you don’t notice once it’s in there like salad dressing or tuna salad. Ok people? Don’t be scared.)


and puree.


Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, [I defrosted the peas in the bag and they came out great; just use the DEFROST feature on your microwave.]


pignolis, [These you toast by just putting them into a skillet and turning up the heat to medium, tossing them around for three minutes.]


salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Now I know this looks like a gloppy mess:


But I promsie you it tastes delicious. Let’s take a closer look:


I confess, I added way too much of the pesto mixture and not enough pasta. But so what? When you have a pesto mixture this good you don’t care. I didn’t care! I just ate it! And it tastes yum!

Plus there was plenty leftover for tomorrow and the next day:


Treat yourself on Wednesday to an Epicurian delight. Make this tomorrow and you won’t regret it. And when you do, don’t be afraid to belt: PAAAASTAAA PESTOOO PEAAAAS….

3 thoughts on “For The Love of Basil: Pasta, Pesto, and Peas”

  1. that’s almost the same exact recipe they use at Pagliacci’s Pizza, here in Seattle, very well known ‘gourmet’ pizza place, got lots of awards for having the best pizza, I used to work there, we added artichoke hearts to the pasta, very good.

  2. So…. (and no I’m not a mayo hater!)… why mayo? How would it come together if something creamy but different was used, like heavy cream, or buttermilk, or yogurt. I wonder if the lemon juice would do nasty things to any added dairy. Hmm.

  3. After my success with the caramel pecan ice cream, I decided to try my luck with this recipe. Another success! I’d like to add two things. First, I don’t have a big food processor, only a mini-prep, and it was just barely big enough to hold the pesto, spinach, and mayo, but I only used about 3 heaping tablespoons of mayo, not the full 1 1/4 cups. I did this for space reasons, and also because I was afraid that I would be able to taste the mayo instead of just reap the benefit of its creaminess. Second, I used a jar of Classico pesto instead of the 1 1/2 cups of fresh pesto. This may exclude me from the Tuesday-night gormet club, but it still tasted pretty good to me, especially since I did include the freshly-toasted pine nuts. It also shortened the amount of time I needed to make the recipe to bring it within the “feed baby, cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up, feed baby” paradigm that is my life.

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