We’ve finally reached the fun part of half-marathon training: the taper. As I’ve mentioned before, experts recommend that in the last two weeks before a big race, you take it easy and eat lots of carbs. Well, if you insist …
occasional weekly french fry-binge, I don’t eat a ton of carbs when I’m not training. So it’s hard to think of recipes that are more exciting than spaghetti with red sauce. Large amounts of cheese make my stomach hurt (I know. It’s a rough life I lead.) so mac and cheese is out. Somehow, despite being Indian, I have yet to cook a pot of rice properly in my lifetime, so that’s out too. And there’s only so many sandwiches a girl can take, especially when if she doesn’t like basic lunch meats or American cheese.
Early spring produce lends itself wonderfully to fresh, bright pasta dishes. Think penne with asparagus, spaghetti with grilled artichokes, spinach and goat cheese mac. I was drawn, as I always am, to Smitten Kitchen, and Deb’s verdant linguine with pea pesto. It was easy, and took advantage of in-season ingredients — two of my favorite things.
Of course, being the royal PITA that I am, I had to make some changes. I saw some mint at the store and love the combo of mint and peas, so in that went. Forgot to buy pine nuts, so #deuces. I had planned to crumble some browned pancetta into the pasta, but I caught a case of the Sunday lazies and didn’t want to have to fry anything up. So this version is vegetarian, but would be equally delicious, as all things are, with a bit of crispy salty pork.
The end result is more akin to a pasta salad than the heavy baked pastas of winter. It’s a lighter carbo-load, one that can keep me going on Mile 12 but can also be your favorite dinner this season, since it pairs perfectly with a deck, a sunset and an ice-cold Chardonnay.
Minty Pea Pesto Pasta
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 4 servings
– 1 16-ounce bag frozen peas, defrosted
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
– 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 12 ounces whole wheat pasta shells
– juice of half a lemon
1) Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes, then drain and run under cold water, shaking the peas well so that the hot water rinses off of them.
2) In a blender or food processor, combine the half of the peas with the garlic, mint, parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until the mixture is smooth, adding a bit more oil if necessary to loosen up the pesto.
3) In a large saucepan, cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water in a separate bowl. Toss the pea pesto with the cooked pasta shells, adding pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until the pesto coats the shells. Toss the remaining peas and lemon juice, then top with more parmesan cheese. Serve at room temperature.