You don’t have to wait until summer to enjoy homemade pesto! This spring twist on classic Italian basil pesto swaps the fresh herbs for sweet peas. Better yet, you don’t even have to wait for the first glimpse of fresh peas at the farmers market. Here you’ll utilize a good old bag of frozen peas. It’s the perfect way to get your fix of sunny flavor while you eagerly await the season to arrive in full.
This simple pesto comes together quickly in a food processor. You don’t even need to cook the frozen peas! Just let them partially thaw in the bowl of the food processor to soften them just enough to be pulsed with garlic, toasted pistachios, lemon zest and juice, Pecorino Romano cheese, and olive oil. The pistachios bring buttery richness, the lemon lends big brightness, and the Pecorino imparts a salty, savory character that rounds out the sweet peas perfectly. This is one recipe that will have you ready to spring forward into the season!
How to Use Pea Pesto
Like any pesto, pea pesto is endlessly versatile. Here are a handful of my favorite ways to use it:
- Spread it on the chickpea flatbread socca, cut the socca into four big wedges, and top each wedge with a fried egg. Or cut the socca into smaller wedges and top each with a big dollop of ricotta and a little more lemon zest for a snack.
- Toss it with pasta or gnocchi.
- Fold it into scrambled eggs right before they’re done.
- Dollop it onto grilled salmon or chicken.
- Stir it into asparagus or shrimp risotto after you’ve turned off the heat, right before serving.
- Smear it on crostini, then top the crostini with crumbled goat cheese or feta and a few grinds of black pepper for a seasonal appetizer.
- Garnish carrot or asparagus soup with a small spoonful.
- Slather it on thick-cut toast, then top the toast with sliced avocado, a poached egg, or both.
How to Make Pea Pesto With Fresh Peas
If you do get ahold of fresh peas, you can absolutely use them in place of the frozen peas in this recipe. As long as you’re willing to shell them, of course! Though I do think the effort is worth the reward. If using fresh peas, you’ll simply want to blanch them before using. To do this, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add 1 cup shelled fresh peas and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, which will take about 1 minute. Drain the peas through a strainer and immediately transfer them to an ice water bath. Drain the peas again, pat dry, transfer to the food processor, and proceed with the recipe.
Swaps and Substitutions
While I love the buttery sweetness pistachios lend this pesto, just about any toasted nuts or seeds can be used in their place—try walnuts, almonds, cashews, or pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
You can also swap the Pecorino Romano cheese for Parmesan cheese. Pecorino is a bit saltier than Parmesan, so you might find yourself wanting to add a little more salt at the end if you use Parmesan instead.
Other Easy Pesto Recipes to Try
- Scallion Pesto
- Ramp and Parsley Pesto
- Mint Pesto
- Arugula Pesto
- Kale Pesto
Chop the peas, pistachios, and garlic:
Place the peas, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until roughly chopped, about 10 pulses.
Add the remaining ingredients:
Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the food processor. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into the food processor (about 2 tablespoons). Add the grated cheese, olive oil, and kosher salt.
Blend the pesto:
Process the pesto, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through, until the mixture comes together into a rough paste, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.
Refrigerated leftover pesto in an airtight container for up to 1 week. It won’t brown like basil pesto, so there is no need to cover the surface with olive oil. Alternatively, you can freeze the pesto in an airtight container or in ice cube trays (once frozen, transfer the cubes to a zip-top bag) for up to 6 months.
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