This Pea and Mint Pesto Pasta Comes Together in Two Steps

The Institute of Culinary Education puts a twist on the classic pesto formula by adding mint and peas. If you want to keep your grocery bill low, swap the pine nuts for walnuts.
Mint pesto pasta: It's what's for dinner.
Mint pesto pasta: It's what's for dinner. / The Institute of Culinary Education

Even if most of the trees outside are still bare, this time of year has us thinking green. That makes pesto pasta the perfect dish for getting into a spring state of mind. This recipe from the Institute of Culinary Education achieves its vibrant hue with peas and mint, and it comes together in just a couple of steps. 

Traditionally, pesto is made by blending together garlic, herbs, nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor. Basil is the most common choice of herb, but this version opts for mint for a refreshing twist on the classic flavor profile. It also adds peas to the mix, which introduces an extra boost of flavor and nutrients.

Though the recipe calls for pine nuts, a traditional ingredient in pesto, they can be swapped for a more affordable option. “Because pine nuts are so expensive, you can substitute walnuts,” Gill Boyd, a culinary arts chef-instructor at ICE, tells Mental Floss. “Pecans are going to be a different flavor, and I wouldn’t use almonds. I would say walnuts, because they’re generally cheaper per pound than pine nuts.”

To put the cost into perspective, the same brand sells pine nuts for $1.44 an ounce and walnuts for $.75 an ounce. Pine nut trees have a maturation period of up to 40 years, and harvesting the nuts is often labor-intensive. This contributes to their high price tag—though if you're looking to splurge, this recipe is a great opportunity.

To make the pesto, pulse the mint, peas, garlic, nuts, and parmesan together in a food processor. Stream in the oil as you continue to blend it to create a smooth paste. Pouring the oil slowly instead of dumping it all at once allows it to emulsify, which results in a cohesive mixture instead of a broken, oily mess.

After making the sauce, boil your penne in a pot of salted water until al dente. Toss the cooked pasta in the pesto and serve.

With campuses on both coasts, the Institute of Culinary Education offers cooking and hospitality management classes at a variety of skill levels. In addition to their career training programs, they provide continued education to professionals already working in the culinary industry. If you're interested in learning more recipes like the one below, check out the school’s curricula on their website.

Mint and Pea Pesto with Penne

Serves 4-6

1 pound dry penne pasta
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup mint, leaves washed and dried
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil

  1. Combine peas, mint, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan in a food processor and pulse. Stream in the olive oil and mix again until the mixture is smooth, then set aside and season to taste.
  2. Bring a gallon of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions or until pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and mix well with the pesto, then serve.

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