A pistou-packin’ outlaw: Whole wheat spaghetti with walnut-mushroom pesto

Ok. It took a lot of greenery and a lot of fish to get me here, but I think I am at last recovered from National Grilled Cheese month. Which is tremendously convenient, because as Maggie has shown us with her divine asparagus soup, my favorite vegetable is at last in season!

pistou

Asparagus is one of those things that I will happily eat with every meal.  Typically, I favor it roasted, but sometimes it’s just so green, so fresh, that such heavy treatment is practically blasphemy. At this time of year, when perfect asparagus is a daily occurence, I prefer to sort of wave it over a hot skillet and eat it with as little adornment as possible; usually this means tossed in with some pasta.

asparagus1

The pasta of choice this week was a dish discovered over at Serious Eats (and if you subscribe to their recipe flash, you probably already know which one I’m talking about): whole wheat pasta with a mushroom-walnut pistou (or, for us plebs, pesto). It should surprise noone that I am a pesto junkie–as we all know, anything that requires my food processor is likely to make me extremely happy; doubly so if the “anything” in question requires at least two cloves of raw garlic. Throw in the fact that the whole business takes maybe 25 minutes from start to finish, and you’re talking epic win.

What makes this particularly awesome is the unexpected flavor brought by the mushrooms and walnuts–it being pesto, you’re prepared for garlic and cheese; the meaty earthiness is a nice surprise. It’s chewy, it’s complex, it’s vegetarian-friendly, it’s fast,  it’s all flavor, all the time. It’s a new weeknight favorite.

Whole-wheat spaghetti with walnut-mushroom pesto
Adapted from French in a Flash, over at the always awesome Serious Eats

1 lb mixed wild mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster), roughly chopped or sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon, plus 3/4 cup
3 shallots, roughly chopped or sliced
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons packed fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons packed fresh sage leaves
1/4 c dry white wine
1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper

1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb whole wheat spaghetti, cooked as per packet instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together mushrooms and shallots with 3 tbsp olive oil and a bit of salt; when well-mixed, turn them out on to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until soft and lovely, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, combine 3/4 mushroom/shallot mixture, raw garlic, parsley, sage, thyme, walnuts and cheese. Give it a quick whizz, adding the wine and olive oil slowly to loosen it up into a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t over mix–you don’t want mushroom pate.
  4. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; saute the asparagus with a bit of olive oil and salt until it is bright green and succulent–though still crunchy!
  5. Toss pesto, asparagus, and remaining mushrooms with whole-wheat spaghetti for maximum nutty, chewy deliciousness.
In garlic, pasta, pesto, weeknight

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