Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Easy Recipe for Barely-Cooked Asparagus with Basil Pesto

Barely Cooked Asparagus with Basil Pesto
Barely Cooked Asparagus with Basil Pesto is ultra easy and flavorful.

(Updated with new photos and step-by-step instructions in April 2012.  There hasn't been much cooking going on while I've been trying to get better, but before I got sick I cooked my first asparagus of the year and re-did the photos for this favorite recipe from 2007; enjoy!)

Lots of people love the archives section I call Easy South Beach Recipes, where I feature tasty South Beach Diet friendly recipes with five ingredients or less. This one is a combination I stumbled on by accident years ago on a day when I had fresh asparagus and noticed a jar of pesto in the fridge. The pesto turned out to be fantastic with lightly cooked asparagus.  When I made the recipe again recently to take better photos, it was even better with my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon, something I always make and freeze when my garden has an abundance of basil.  But even if you use basil pesto from a jar, I promise that this will become one of your favorite ways to cook asparagus.

I make big batches of Basil Pesto with Lemon and freeze it in mini-muffin tins.  Then I seal the cubes in FoodSaver bags so it's easy to use take out a few when I need some pesto!

Start a pot of boiling, salted water; then trim the asparagus and cut on the diagonal into short pieces about 2 inches long.

When the water comes to a boil, add the asparagus and cook not more than 2 or 3 minutes (time it and test a piece!)

Drain the hot asparagus into a colander placed in the sink.

As soon as the asparagus has drained, put in a bowl and add the pesto.  Let it melt for a minute or two.

Then toss the asparagus with the pesto and serve immediately!  Yum!

And just for fun, here's the original photo from this recipe back in 2007!

Barely-Cooked Asparagus with Basil Pesto
(Makes 2-4 side dish servings, recipe created by Kalyn when she had leftover pesto in the fridge and some lovely fresh asparagus.)

1-2 tsp. salt (for asparagus cooking water)
1 lb. fresh asparagus
1-2 T basil pesto (I used my Basil Pesto with Lemon, but purchased pesto will also work)

Fill medium sized pot with water, add a generous amount of salt (as if you were salting the water for pasta) and bring to a boil.

Be sure asparagus is clean, then break off the end of one piece to see where the woody stalk starts. Trim the other asparagus pieces to that size, then cut asparagus on the diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long.

When the water comes to a boil, add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Don't overcook, use a timer!

When asparagus is lightly cooked but still fairly crisp, drain it into a colander placed in the sink.  When the water has drained, put the hot asparagus into a bowl; add the pesto and let it melt for a minute or two.  Then toss the asparagus with the pesto and serve immediately.

South Beach Suggestions:
This is a perfect side dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet. For phase one, this would be tasty with Hamburger Kebabs or Janet's Mustard Chicken. For phase two or three, add something like Barley with Dried and Fresh Mushrooms.counter customizable free hit

More Favorite Ways to Cook Asparagus from Kalyn
Barely-Cooked Asparagus with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette
Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Tahini-Peanut Dipping Sauce
Lightly Steamed Asparagus with Basil Vinaigrette
Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan
Sauteed Asparagus with Melted Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts

Asparagus Ideas from Other Blogs:
(Recipes from other blogs may not be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Penne with Chicken, Asparagus, and Creamy Pesto from Tigers and Strawberries
Perfect Asparagus from Simply Recipes
Pasta with Asparagus and Pesto from Lucullian Delights
Asparagus Pesto Primavera from Sweet Basil
Asparagus Leek Risotto from Gluten-Free Goddess
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More to Chew On:


  1. A great use for the last containers of pesto I have in my freezer from the summer harvest!

  2. Wow, that will be on my table tonight!

  3. Asparagus and basil pesto? You know? I have never had pesto on veggies. I am going to have to make another batch of pesto and try this...thanks!

  4. Kalyn, you sure knows how to spice up a simple asparagus dish !! What a great change of using pesto with crunchy fresh asparagus with basils :)

  5. Hey Kalyn,
    You're on an asparagus roll! I love all these variations.

  6. Thanks everyone. This was truly wonderful, even with pesto from a bottle.

  7. I don't like pesto, but I do like Classico's sun dried tomato pesto -- the same type as shown in your photo, but different flavor. It tastes mostly like tomatoes, not pesto. :-) Anyway, I used that instead, and it was delicious. It would be good with some parmesan cheese on top too.

  8. Zoe, I love that idea. I'll have to look for the Classico sun-dried tomato pesto,it sounds wonderful.

  9. I tried the original basil pesto and didn't like it too much. However, the sun dried version is just about the best pasta sauce I've ever eaten. It's WONDERFUL. Find it if you can.

  10. I love asparagus! Thanks for the recipe.

  11. My. Oh. My. I never thought of combining basil pesto with asparagus. Brilliant! I am predicting this will be my new asparagus obsession!

  12. Hope you are feeling better! That asparagus looks gorgeous. Love basil pesto as well! Must put in my "try soon" pile at the top!

    Happy Easter.

  13. So simple, but some of my favorites!

  14. Thanks everyone. So glad people are liking this simple idea.

  15. I love this simple vegetable recipe - I usually have a stash of pesto in my freezer too. I like your updated photos - it's always fun to go back and look at older food photos.


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