asparagus pesto tortellini
Asparagus appeared in the co-op’s local produce section a few weeks ago, like magic. As if I wasn’t already high enough on spring. And because there’s a very short window before it’s back to dried out ol’ Peruvian asparagus, I’ve been buying several pounds of it at a time. Much as I’d like to, I’m not capable of eating several pounds of asparagus a week, and Chris wouldn’t touch asparagus even if it was deep fried and enveloped in multiple layers of bacon.
He is, however, a huge fan of pesto, and after stumbling upon this recipe at epicurious, it occurred to me that pesto made with asparagus might not look so different from pesto made with basil. Plus, you can do a hell of a lot with pesto, including freezing it, and the idea of a dollop of asparagus on baked fish in the dead of winter was rather appealing.
So I tossed a pound of asparagus and a few cloves of garlic into a baking pan with a little olive oil and a little salt, roasted it for about ten minutes, then dumped it all into the food processor with a handful of toasted pine nuts, some grated parmesan, and more olive oil. And voila, asparagus pesto.
And you know what’s fun to do with pesto? Spend an hour or so scooping it onto little squares of dough and then twisting it into tortellini. Seriously, way more fun than merely tossing it with warm pasta.
You could just as easily do ravioli, but every time I’ve tried to make ravioli (i.e., once) the filling’s oozed out into the pasta cooking water, leaving me with a decidedly less flavorful dish than I ever would have made on purpose. So I stick to tortellini.
I would have been perfectly content to toss the tortellini and some pesto into a bowl and call it a night, but this particular tortellini was crying out for a lemon cream sauce. And one simply does not argue with asparagus-stuffed tortellini.
Asparagus Pesto Tortellini
adapted from Gourmet
1 lb. asparagus*
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. + 2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. + 2 T. pine nuts, toasted (or substitute walnut pieces)
2/3 c. grated parmesan
24 store-bought wonton wrappers
1) Trim woody ends from asparagus. Cut asparagus stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces, reserving tips. Toss the asparagus and garlic into a baking pan, then drizzle with 2 T. olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast @ 450° for about 10 minutes.
2) Dump the roasted asparagus and garlic into a food processor (or blender?) along with 1/4 c. toasted pine nuts, 1/3 c. olive oil, and the grated parmesan. Process (or blend) until combined.
3) Spread the wonton wrappers out on a baking sheet or cutting board. Place a small dollop of pesto in the center of each and then fold them up into tortellini.
4) Gently drop the tortellini into a pot of boiling, salted water and boil until they rise to the top, about 3 minutes. Drain.
5) Toss the tortellini with the lemon cream sauce, a dollop of pesto, and the reserved asparagus tips, then sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
Lemon Cream Sauce
1/2 c. heavy cream
juice & zest of half a lemon
salt & pepper to taste
Combine in small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until the mixture bubbles gently.
*One pound of asparagus makes way more pesto than you need for this dish. The recipe is easily halved if you can somehow restrain yourself in the face of fresh local asparagus, but the pesto freezes well so I’d be more inclined to double the recipe than to halve it.