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Pea and Parsley Pesto

Image of English Peas
Peas are a funny vegetable: small, round, tasty—and not without controversy. Oddly enough, it seems that people either love peas or hate them. For some, they may be tolerable in pot pies, pasta salad or tuna casserole—or they may wind up carefully moved to the side of the bowl or plate. For those who love them, though, May is the month we look forward to because English peas are in full swing, with summer harvests across the country coming in.

While others may not care for them, I LOVE them! I could eat a whole bowl of ‘em by myself, straight from the pod. While they are undeniably delicious when eaten fresh, they also make a heck of a good pesto if you are looking for a unique spin on a fresh-tasting meal.

Try this Pea and Parsley Pesto recipe I adapted and included in a column several years back. If you love parsley, peas and pesto you will fall in love with this recipe.

Pea and Parsley Pesto
Serves 4

2 cups Melissa’s fresh English peas, cooked (see cooking note below)
1 cup packed Melissa’s organic fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
3 organic garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
12 ounces linguine

In a food processor, combine 1 cup cooked peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water. Pulse until a paste forms. With the machine running, slowly add oil, processing until blended; season with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, adding your other cup of fresh peas 30 seconds before the end of cooking.

Reserve 1-cup pasta water; drain pasta and peas. Return pasta and peas to pot and toss with 3/4-cup pesto (reserve remainder for another use), adding enough pasta water to create a sauce that coats the pasta.

Serve pasta with more Parmesan.

Cooking Note
If you haven’t cooked fresh peas before it’s fairly quick and easy to do. After you have shelled your peas from their pods, place them in a bowl near your pot filled with just enough water to reach the bottom of a steamer basket. Bring the water to a full boil. Place the shelled peas in the basket, making sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Place the cover on a saucepan and cook for 2 minutes. Do not overcook! Peas should be crisp-tender when done and bright green in color. Remove the steamer basket from the saucepan with a hot-pad and pour peas into a serving bowl to use in the recipe.

Once you’ve tried this recipe, check out two more from Melissa’s corporate chefs. While these recipes call for frozen peas, now is the time to swap these for fresh! The first one pairs Peas with Chinese Celery. Chinese celery adds a nice strong, savory flavor that compliments the sweetness of the peas. It’s great as a side dish and can be added to a big bowl of rice for a complete lunch or light dinner!

For the next recipe, I would never have thought to put these two together! Fava Beans and Peas in a lovely surprise hit that I ate both cold and hot throughout the week.

With the winter we’ve had, sometimes you may find slight white spotting or tiny marks on your organic pea pods. Not to worry! As long as your Melissa’s organic pea pods are bright green and not limp, they’ll be fine. The white spotting is from cool, wet field conditions. The tiny marks are hits from tiny insects called thrips. These spots often don’t show up until after harvest when the peas are on their way to the store. So, while they may not look perfect, they are perfectly healthy and delicious.

Lastly, if you are not a fan of cooked peas, that’s completely understandable! With that said, a fresh-picked sweet pea is an entirely different experience and I highly encourage you to give them a try.
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