Picnicking season is finally upon us. Our blanket is at the ready, our supplies of wet naps have been replenished, and a bottle of rosé awaits in the fridge at all times. I love the impromptu nature of the picnic. It’s the sort of meal where Nick can call me from work on a particularly sunny afternoon and ask me to throw together a salad and get out the cheese, tell me he will pick up a baguette on the way from work, and we meet at the canal for a light, leisurely supper.
Even when you plan a picnic, like I did a few weeks ago with Hope, it’s nice to have dishes you can throw together at a moment’s notice. Pasta salad is a picnic favorite in our house, and ever since I learned the trick to making pesto that doesn’t separate and clump when served on cold pasta (hint: it’s mayonnaise), I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of herbs and vegetables. I usually employ a clean-out-the-fridge method of pesto-making. Any fresh herbs I have lying around get thrown in, and the results are always tasty. This time around, I happened to have two bunches of mint that needed some attention. I had purchased them at the market because they smelled so refreshing, forgetting that I had used up the last of the rum making vanilla extract.
I added some parsley to the mix to help maintain the green color, and a handful of peas came along for the ride. Because what says Spring more than peas and mint? With the exception of cheese, the rest of the Usual Suspects were there: pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice. Tossed with twirly pasta, toasted pine nuts, and more peas, it was a hit at the picnic. The fresh, green flavor helped us all feel a little better about sitting around eating while watching the joggers in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. I’ll be sure to make this again, next time I have mint lying around. Or I may even buy some for the occasion.
Pea and Mint Pesto Pasta Salad
Delicious, refreshing, and utterly springy, this is the perfect dish for the first picnic of the season. The addition of mayonnaise to the traditional pesto helps it cling to the cold pasta. If you start the pasta first, you can have this salad ready to go in around 20 minutes.
For the Mint Pesto:
2 bunches mint, washed and leaved (about 2 cups/450 ml packed leaves)
½ bunch parsley, washed and picked
1-2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
¼ cup/60 ml peas (use fresh if they are young and sweet, otherwise use frozen, thawed)
¼ cup/60 ml pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A little reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary
- Combine all ingredients except pasta water in a tall container. Purée with an immersion blender, adjusting the consistency if necessary with a little of the cooking water. Taste and tweak the seasoning as you desire.
For the Pasta Salad:
7 oz./200 g pasta (short shapes with lots of surface area are best – think fusilli or farfalle)
1 recipe Mint Pesto
½ cup/120 ml peas (see note above)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water to just past al dente. (You’re going to be eating this cold or room temperature, so it should be tender.) Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.
- Toss the pasta with the pesto, peas, and pine nuts. Pack into a reusable, picnic-friendly container and get outside! Serve on a picnic blanket with plastic utensils.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.
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