asparagus-spinach pesto pasta with blackened shrimp
Some moms buy their daughters clothes. Some buy their daughters make-up. And them some really cool moms…buy their daughters NUTS. :)
Actually, my mom’s a giver in all sorts of ways. But one of our favorite traditions whenever I return home to Wichita is making our family pilgrimage to this fantastic place called The Nifty Nuthouse. Basically, it’s this heavenly little grocery that has rows and rows of nuts as far as the eye can see! When I was a kiddo, I always used to make a beeline to the back where the fresh candy is stored. But now that I’m older and wiser, it’s all about the nuts. :D
So yes – in addition to the many “fun” nuts (smoked, toffee-coated, etc.) that returned home to KC in my suitcase last week, I was also stoked to bring home a bag of classic pine nuts to refill my jar that had been empty for a few weeks.
Thus, I present to you one of my all-time favorites. I found this recipe awhile back, and absolutely fell in love with it. (As did a number of my family and friends who were around for the first meal, and have requested it multiple times since!!) The asparagus-spinach pesto is absolutely brilliant — full of flavor, all sorts of nutrients, and is fantastic paired with the blackened shrimp. Also…it’s basically neon green! Go asparagus!!
So go “green”, and have a great time sharing this one with those you love!
- 1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb), 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 1 Tbsp. for cooking the shrimp
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 lb. (16 oz.) of dried pasta
- 1 lb. raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
- 2-3 Tbsp. blackening powder (use your favorite brand, or cajun seasoning, or this recipe here)
Bring 2 pots of water to a rolling boil, one large for the pasta and one medium sized for the asparagus.
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. (Watch carefully – these only take a few minutes.) 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.
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. 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.
Add the asparagus (chopped into smaller pieces if needed to fit into the food processor), spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor. 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, salt, and black pepper and continue pureeing until mixed. Set aside.
In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shrimp, and immediately sprinkle with blackening powder. Stir until it is mixed in, and then continue stirring occasionally until the shrimp are cooked and pink. Remove skillet from burner and set aside.
While the shrimp are cooking, salt the pasta water well and cook the pasta until just tender. Check the directions on the pasta package. Drain and toss immediately with the asparagus pesto. Add in the shrimp, and stir briefly until well mixed.
Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts and some extra Parmesan.
If you don’t have any shrimp on hand, blackened chicken would also be a wonderful addition to this recipe! Also, if you’re not a fan of heavily-sauced pasta, feel free to freeze some of this pesto to use at a later date. It keeps well!