Orecchiette with Heirloom Fingerlings and Asparagus Pesto

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If there is ever a meal that will scream SPRING to you, this would have to be it. Beautiful spring produce, light and healthful, yet still filling and even felt right to eat it during a rainstorm. I did have to overcome one of my quirks to make this meal though.

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For whatever reason, and I really couldn’t give you anything specific, I have always been somewhat adamantly against what I call a “carb on carb” recipe. Mostly those involved potatoes meeting a bread, like potato tacos, or potato pizza, or potato pasta, but also included things like pasta on pizza, or lentils on pasta, etc. The whole thing just didn’t really make sense to me, and almost felt greedy, like you were hoarding the amount of carbs allotted to you by the universe and therefore depriving someone else.

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Don’t worry, I did have a practical objection in addition to my weird abstract protestation; I was also concerned that it just plain wouldn’t taste good. I figured it would be too heavy, or that the textures would be too similar. But I keep seeing such “carb on carb” recipes on the web, over and over and over, so I started to think that maybe there was something not so terrible about them.

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Well. I was wrong and the internet was right. Carb on carb is delicious! The textures did not clash at all, and the asparagus pesto salved any conscientious objections I may have had to eating all those carbs in a single sitting. I have a good hunch this won’t be my last carb on carb experience.

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By the way, the asparagus pesto was fantastic, I would highly recommend doubling that portion of the recipe and keeping it around. It would work so nicely on grilled chicken or pork tenderloin.

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A few recipe notes: after you have boiled your potatoes, make sure they are very dry, otherwise they will not brown in the sauté pan. Don’t ask me how I know this. And speaking of potatoes, this recipe calls for heirloom fingerling potatoes, which I would recommend trying to find as they are beautiful and delicious. But really any small potato will do. Same with the pasta shape – as long as you stick to something small, the recipe will work just fine. Orechiette is pretty widely available these days, but elbow macaroni, mini penne, or small shells would sub in nicely too.

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Source: slightly adapted from Webicurean

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off
½ cup chopped basil, packed
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
¾ lb heirloom fingerling potatoes, rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 lb orecchiette pasta
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese + some for garnish

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by placing some ice cubes into a large bowl and filling with water. Salt it and mix the salt around with your fingers.
When the water is boiling, add the asparagus and blanch for about 1 minute. They should be bright green and still tender-crisp. Remove with a spider or other large slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking and retain the lovely color. Leave the asparagus in there for a minute or two, then remove to a cutting board. Leave the water boiling, as you can use it for your potatoes and pasta!
Cut the asparagus into thirds, and add to a food processor bowl along with the basil, pine nuts, and garlic. Process until well chopped/blended, then drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is still going.
Blend in the Parmesan using the pulse setting. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Resalt the boiling water. Halve the larger potatoes, and add to the boiling water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Remove with the spider to a bowl.
In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the potatoes, cooking until brown and crispy on all sides. Salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, resalt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions. Reserve about ½ cup of the water before draining.
Add the drained pasta along with the crisped potatoes to a serving bowl and toss with about half the pesto and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Use the reserved pasta water to thin out the mixture if necessary. Add more pesto as desired (I used about three-quarters of it). Garnish with additional cheese and serve.

5 responses to “Orecchiette with Heirloom Fingerlings and Asparagus Pesto

  1. Thanks for sharing! My husband has decided this is one of his favorite pesto recipes. I just love it too–definitely gotta make extra–the pesto itself is really good slathered on french bread lol

    • Texan New Yorker

      Thank you for such a fantastic recipe! Oohhh, I bet the asparagus pesto would be amazing on French bread… Why don’t I have any more pesto???

  2. Julie,
    Now that you mention it, the carb-on-carb thing bothers me, too. Except for pizza, since I usually make such a thin crust that my pizzas don’t scream “Carb!” at me, and the times I’ve put potato on pizza it’s been so incredibly right that I’m glad I did. Perhaps it’s chunks of potato that do me in. We’ll see for dinner, where chunks of baked potato are going into a sub sandwich somehow.

    Anyhoo, this pasta salad looks great, and I’m pretty sure my kids would gobble it up regardless of the asparagus pesto (their palates are not yet fully refined) because it’s got potatoes and they love potatoes, especially crispy ones.

    Thanks!

    • Texan New Yorker

      I love thin crust pizzas best too, but I’ve never put potatoes on one. I think it’s something I should correct at some point though.
      I don’t have kids and therefore no data points, but I could definitely see kids and teens liking this dish.

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