I’ve made this dish about a million times. It’s one of those go-to standbys I’ve done so many times that I can put myself on autopilot and mindlessly whip it up, the linchpin of the busy cook. Even for a first attempt, though, this recipe is very easy to throw together, and all the ingredients can be kept at the ready in your pantry or freezer. I like to make a whole batch and serve it as a side dish throughout the week (maybe with cod and asparagus, or a green salad and quick turkey burgers), and it’s an affordable and festive addition to a spread for a crowd. It tastes great served cold as a pasta salad (picnic season!) or piping hot with a flurry of grated cheese on top. You can certainly make your own pesto, if you like, but with such nice store-bought versions available, I’ve never actually bothered.
Adding to its list of merits, this recipe serves as a sneaky way to nudge your loved and little ones past any aversions they may have to green vegetables. Nestled in with the pasta and creamy pesto and pine nuts are handfuls of beautiful fresh peas, which veg-phobic family members might just find sweet and tender, wonderfully integrated with the other components, and not so scary after all. If they still don’t go over well, peas make great little projectiles to flick at your siblings, should you have some available, or shoot out your nose. (Not as nutritious but probably more fun.) Little ones can also tackle shelling the peas, one of my favorite kitchen tasks and a slightly more genteel way to bolster interest.
Farfalle Pesto with Peas
inspired by Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties, 2001; serves about 6-8 as a side dish
- 3/4 lb farfalle pasta
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 7 oz pesto
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3/4 C red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 C Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, grated, plus more for serving tableside
- 1 1/2 lb fresh pea pods, preferably English (or 1 1/2 C frozen, shelled peas in the off-season)
- olive oil for finishing
Shell the peas and prep the other ingredients. In a large pot, bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil; add 1 Tbsp salt and return to a boil. Cook the pasta according to your package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until fragrant, shiny and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Set aside. Warm the pesto, red onions and peas, covering to cook until the peas are just tender. When the pasta is finished, use a slotted spoon to transfer the farfalle directly to the sauce pan. Take off the heat. Sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts and gently toss to mix and coat in the pesto. (Add a bit more olive oil, if desired.) Serve warm, room temperature, or slightly chilled.