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Pack Up Ree's Spring Pea Pesto Pasta Salad for Your Next Picnic
2024/04/11

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I have a confession. I love where you can barely see any of the pasta. Yes, that is my deep, dark secret. In this recipe, the pasta is just a vehicle for all of the other "stuff." That "stuff" includes crispy prosciutto, spring , peppery arugula, fresh mozzarella, and delicious lemon-parmesan breadcrumbs, not to mention the gloriously green pesto dressing that coats everything. It makes a lovely , but it can easily be turned into a full lunch or dinner by adding some sliced grilled chicken.

What's in the dressing for spring pea pesto pasta salad?

This dressing is made with fresh ingredients! It's a

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made by blending together peas, garlic, parmesan, basil, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor. Some is streamed in toward the end of blending to thin the pesto out so that it coats the pasta well. 

Can you make spring pea pesto salad ahead of time?

Yes, you can! This pasta salad recipe can be made up to two days in advance. To keep the arugula fresh and the lemon-parmesan breadcrumbs crunchy, wait to add both until just before serving.

1 lb.

small pasta shells

1

(16-oz.) bag frozen peas, steamed and divided

2

cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 1/4 c.

fresh basil, lightly packed

1/2 c.

flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems, lightly packed

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1/2 c.

freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

2 tbsp.

lemon zest (from about 2 lemons), divided

1/4 c.

freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), divided

1/4 c.

plus 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

6

slices prosciutto (about 2 oz.)

1/2 c.

panko breadcrumbs

3 c.

baby arugula, lightly packed

1 c.

mozzarella pearls

Step  1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, and set aside to cool.

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Step  2 In a food processor, combine 1 1/4 cup peas with the garlic, basil, parsley, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Pulse until the pesto begins to come together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Slowly stream in 1/4 cup olive oil with the food processor running until the pesto is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer the pesto to the bowl of cooled pasta. Toss the pasta and pesto together, adding the reserved pasta water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, if necessary to thin the sauce.  Step  3 In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.

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Working in batches if necessary, arrange the prosciutto in an even layer and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan, and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Add the panko breadcrumbs to the pan, along with another drizzle of olive oil if the pan seems dry. Cook, stirring often, until lightly golden and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. To the breadcrumbs, add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Stir and set aside. Step  4 Roughly chop the crispy prosciutto and add half to the bowl of pasta. Add the remaining peas, arugula, and mozzarella, along with the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a good drizzle of olive oil; stir together. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then serve the pasta salad sprinkled with the lemon-parmesan breadcrumbs and remaining crispy prosciutto.

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