Appetizer,  Sauce

Asparagus Pesto

This asparagus pesto is vibrant, healthy, and best of all, fresh. Toss this bright sauce in pasta or use as a topping for appetizers.

Pinterest graphic for asparagus pesto recipe

No Basil? No problem.

If you’re like me, you may be most familiar with (and slightly addicted to) the classic basil pesto. Classic basil pesto is also called Pesto alla Genovese. It includes a combination of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. I recently learned that classic basil pesto is most traditionally made using a mortar and pestle. This sent me down a rabbit hole of pesto history that will definitely be shared in an upcoming post.

As for this asparagus pesto recipe, it is a spin on traditional pesto. This recipe includes pine nuts, olive oil, finely grated Parmesan, garlic and instead of basil, asparagus. The sauce also incorporates fresh lemon for acidity that compliments the asparagus well.

Ingredients for asparagus pesto recipe
Mise en place: Asparagus, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic.

Techniques to know for this recipe:

  • Blanch: Parboil in water or steam; cooking stops by submerging food into a cold water bath.
  • Toast: Make food hot or browned using heat
  • Puree: Make a paste or thick liquid by blending foods together.
Parboiled asparagus submerged in ice water bath
Blanching: Parboiled asparagus submerged in ice water bath.
Pine nuts toasting in dry pan
Toasting: Heating pine nuts over medium heat in a dry pan.
Pureed food in a food processor bowl.
Pureeing: Ingredients were blended together into a paste like consistency using a food processor.

As mentioned earlier, I learned that a mortar and pestle is most traditionally used to make pesto. I used my food processor to make this recipe. The cooking time is minimal for this. If you have a good blender, it will work fine too. The idea is to blend and puree the ingredients into the paste-like consistency that we love about pesto.

I love how bright green this asparagus pesto is. Blanching the asparagus allows the asparagus to get cooked just enough with being soggy or losing it’s flavor and beautiful color.

Pesto Nuts

There are many pesto recipes that call for various types of nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, or pecans. For this pesto I use pine nuts. You can find pine nuts at most grocery stores these days. Lightly toasting the pine nuts in a dry pan first brings out more flavor and therefore deepens the flavor of the pesto. Be careful not to toast the nuts for more than a few minutes as they do burn easily.

Raw pine nuts in glass bowl
Pine nuts have several health benefits and are a traditional pesto ingredient.

How I Used This Sauce

I tossed about a cup of the pesto into a shrimp pasta dish. It was delicious! My husband really enjoyed it too. I think my toddler enjoyed the bright color and messiness, all while getting a small dose of vegetables into his diet.

Shrimp Pasta tossed with asparagus pesto.
Shrimp Pasta tossed with asparagus pesto.

I also made a healthy little snack by topping crostinis with the pesto. I plan on using this for future parties or barbeques and dressing it up a little bit with garnish. I think people will enjoy it as an appetizer. It will especially be a cooling treat for events hosted on the deck. Overall, this asparagus pesto kept well in the fridge for about 3 days making it a good recipe to make ahead.

Crostini with asparagus pesto
Crostini topped with asparagus pesto.

Other ways you could use asparagus pesto:

  • Use as a sandwich condiment
  • Toss in your favorite pasta
  • Use it as a pizza or flatbread sauce
  • As a dip

What other ways could you use this sauce in your cooking repertoire?

Asparagus Pesto

Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Appetizer


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of half a lemon
  • juice of half a lemon about 2 Tablespoons
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese optional


  • Cut woodsy ends of asparagus off and discard. Chopped asparagus into 2 inch pieces.
  • Blanch asparagus: Bring pot of water to a boil, cook asparagus 5-6 minutes until tender. Strain asparagus and add to bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Let sit in ice bath for 1-2 minutes and then drain.
    Parboiled asparagus submerged in ice water bath
  • Toast pine nuts: In a dry skillet, cook pine nuts over medium heat for no more than 3 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from skillet.
    Pine nuts toasting in dry pan
  • In food processor, blend together the cooked asparagus, toasted pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, dash of salt, and dash of pepper until pureed.
  • If desired, add parmesan cheese and blend for one more minute. You may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil if mixture is too thick for your preference.
  • Use pesto immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Keyword sauce