Monday, March 5, 2012

Three Vegetable Penne Pasta with Tarragon-Basil Pesto

Last week I had my friend Ben over for dinner. Ben is one of my four token vegetarian friends. (hi guys!) While I can't fathom giving up meat entirely, I do try to come up with vegetarian recipes on occasion that are a bit more substantive than pasta with red sauce. I was inspired to cook this recipe after getting an herb basket from my brother and his wife for my birthday, which included fresh tarragon. This also gave me an excuse to pulse some herbs with my mini-food processor which is always fun.

Three Vegetable Penne Pasta with Tarragon-Basil Pesto (serves 4)


  • 1 pound penne rigate (with lines) pasta
  • Salt
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough ends
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/4 pound, haricots verts (thin green beans) trimmed of stem ends
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup basil, 20 leaves
  • 1/2 cup tarragon leaves from 10 to 12 stems
  • Handful flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to pass at table
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and add pasta to cook to al dente or, with a bite to it.

Cut asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces on an angle. Cut zucchini into matchstick shapes. Cut haricots verts or green beans into 2-inch pieces on an angle. Add vegetables to pasta after penne has been cooking about 5 minutes. Cook veggies and pasta together 2 minutes.

While pasta cooks, toast pine nuts in a small pan until golden, then cool. Place nuts, basil, tarragon, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, cheese and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Turn the processor on and stream in the extra-virgin olive oil until thick sauce forms.

Scrape pesto into large, shallow serving dish. Add a ladle of hot, starchy pasta water to the pesto. Drain penne and veggies and add immediately to pesto. Toss to coat pasta and vegetables evenly. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with extra grated cheese to pass at table.

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