Asparagus Pesto with Pasta

Fresh spring asparagus pesto recipe with baby spinach, asparagus, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic, served with fettuccine pasta.

Asparagus Pesto with Pasta
Elise Bauer

A while ago I got together with Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks to try out one of the recipes from her cookbook, Super Natural Cooking.

The recipe we selected is perfect for spring, a pesto made with blanched asparagus, baby spinach, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil, tossed with a mix of egg and green spinach noodles.

Asparagus Pesto with Pasta
Elise Bauer

Heidi calls this recipe "Straw and Hay Fettuccine Tangle, with Spring Asparagus Purée" in her book, a nod to the mixing up of different colors of noodles.

The asparagus pesto would work with any pasta or even as a sauce for pizza or potatoes.

Asparagus Pesto with Pasta

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings


  • 1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 pound), trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise

  • 3 handfuls baby spinach leaves

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

  • 1 cup pine nuts

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping

  • Juice 1/2 lemon

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

  • 8 ounces dried pasta or 12 ounces fresh -linguini, fettuccine, spaghetti (Mix spinach pasta with regular wheat pasta for a medley of colors.)

Special Equipment

  • Food processor


  1. Bring 2 pots of water to a rolling boil:

    one large for the pasta and one medium sized for the asparagus.

  2. Toast pine nuts:

    While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned.

    Elise Bauer

    Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. You will use 3/4 cup of the pine nuts for the pesto paste and 1/4 cup to mix in whole.

  3. Blanch asparagus:

    Salt the asparagus water and drop the spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut the tips off, and set aside, several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) to use for garnish.

  4. Make asparagus pesto:

    Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water.

    Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.

    Here's a trick that Heidi taught me. When emptying the food processor bowl of its contents, hold the bottom of the bowl with one hand with a finger in the center hole, holding the blade in place and keeping it from falling out.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  5. Make pasta, toss with pesto:

    Salt the pasta water well and cook the pasta until just tender. Check the directions on the pasta package. You'll need more time for dried pasta and less for fresh.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    This fresh pasta cooked up in no time at all.

    Drain and toss immediately with 1 cup of the asparagus pesto.

    Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, a dusting of Parmesan, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
391 Calories
30g Fat
23g Carbs
13g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 391
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 38%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 14mg 5%
Sodium 515mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 12mg 58%
Calcium 207mg 16%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 499mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.