Easy Pea Pesto


Today, my good friend Rachel and I took all the babies to the zoo.

I had Elsa in an Ergo; she had Ollie, who is just nine days younger, in hers.
I chased Owen, who is somehow and heartbreakingly almost two years old.
She chased just-turned-three Archie.

We both pushed strollers, which were mostly there to carry the diaper bags. And Rachel rightly compared our movement to that of covered wagons on the prairie – slow and weighed down by only the most necessary of provisions – goldfish, graham crackers, diapers, and sippy cups.


The weather was amazing. The boys had a blast, and it’s very life-giving to spend time with a friend who is in just about the exact same season of life as I am. Somehow, in the midst of countless interruptions (Freeze your body, Owen! You need to be where I can see you!…Archie! Don’t put that in Ollie’s mouth!) we found good conversation and good connection. It’s not every friend who can power through three interruptions to one sentence and still be tracking with you.

In and around our segmented deeper conversations, we also managed to share some recipe ideas. We both agreed that this is the season for simplicity, for meals that come together in less than 15 mintues and don’t make a ton of dishes. While we talked, I had this recipe in mind.


This pea pesto is simplicity at its best. Cook some pasta. Save some of the water, and whirl it around in a food processor with peas (fresh or frozen), garlic, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, paremsan, salt, and olive oil. Mix the pesto with the pasta. Eat and enjoy.

This little recipe came together so quickly, and it’s the perfect recipe to tie you over from spring into summer. Our farmers markets here in Minnesota are still a little bare, so I used frozen peas this time, but I can imagine how freshly shelled peas would be pretty much over the top.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and it’s trying to be summer, it really is. So sit a few extra minutes in your lawn chair, or spend another half hour watching a lady bug crawl around a window sill with your toddler – because this dinner practically makes itself.


Easy Pea Pesto

(recipe barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen )

(yields 4-6 servings)

This simple pea pesto comes together quickly and tastes like spring. My only modification was to add lemon juice and zest to the original recipe; I felt like it needed a little bit of brightness. This pesto goes great in pasta or spread on crostini!


1 1/2 cups fresh peas(from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) or 10-ounces of frozen peas, thawed

3 small garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more for pasta water)

1/3 cup olive oil

12 ounces dried pasta

Garnish (optional): thinly slivered basil or mint leaves


Prepare Your Peas:

If using fresh peas, prepare an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice & water). Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath (if using) and drain again. If you haven’t used an ice bath, let your peas cool to lukewarm before making the pesto. If using frozen peas, give them some time to defrost before using.

Cook Pasta:

Cook your pasta in salted water; reserve 2 c. of the cooking water when draining.

Make Pesto:

While pasta cooks, prepare the pesto. Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining cup of peas in the work bowl of a food processor with garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, 1/3 cup parmesan and salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil.

Over moderate heat, toss drained pasta with pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres. Adjust salt to taste, add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using, and remaining parmesan for passing.

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12 thoughts on “Easy Pea Pesto

  1. I love this post! And am so thankful to have a partner in crime to drive a covered wagon with! This recipe looks delish, I know Archie would like it which is a double bonus!

  2. This comment has nothing to do with this post, but have you ever made your own peanut butter? I searched the site, but didn’t see any. Wanted to try so was curious. I did, however, notice some tasty other peanut butter ideas as I did the search! :)

  3. I love all kinds of pesto, especially a fresh pea pesto like this one and quick dinners are the best! I need to start trying to use fewer dishes while cooking, it is so much nicer when I get done eating dinner and I don’t have to immediately wash an entire sink full of dishes. Sounds like you guys had a great time at the zoo :)

  4. This dinner really does make itself! I added some chicken, and the whole fam was super pleased with the results :)

    By the way, I can totally relate to the snippets of deep conversation interrupted by children pulling in every direction. I thought when I had one of my own that I would somehow master simultaneous child-rearing and conversation. I haven’t yet.

    • So glad you and your family liked it…and to know I’m not alone in my inability to speak more than 4 sentences without interruption.

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