Spring Pasta with Nuts and Herbs – The Washington Post

It’s cheesy pasta topped with asparagus, herbs and nuts – satisfying but light and bright for spring. Feel free to choose your favorite pasta shape; we prefer something short and bite-sized, like orecchiette, macaroni, penne or fusilli. (Ideally choose one that takes about 10 minutes to al dente, so it matches the cooking time for baby potatoes.) It comes together in a saucepan, plus a food processor — although you can cut to hand if you like. This stores beautifully, making it a good choice for a packed lunch or picnic.

Total time: 45 minutes

Get ahead: Pasta and potatoes can be cooked and refrigerated for up to 3 days before cooking the vegetable mixture and combining the two to serve.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended.



Size tested: 6 servings

  • 8 ounces baby potatoes, halved or quartered if large

  • 1 pound short pasta of your choice, such as orecchiette, penne, macaroni or fusilli

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios or walnuts, or a mixture

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 tsp fine salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste

  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise to the root

  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed

  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc (can substitute 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar plus 2 tablespoons water)

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded manchego cheese (can substitute nutritional yeast or a vegan parmesan such as Violife brand), plus more for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and pasta and cook according to package directions until pasta is al dente and potatoes are barely tender. (The potatoes will take about 10 minutes.) Drain both.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the basil leaves, nuts and/or seeds, 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and zest and blend until smooth. they are finely chopped. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and pulse to combine.

Rinse the leeks under running water, separating the leaves with your fingers to make sure the water can seep through (to get rid of any gritty dirt). Shake them then cut them finely into half moons.

In the same pot used to cook the pasta over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add asparagus, garlic, red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is just tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and red pepper flakes if needed.

Add potatoes, pasta and cheese to pot, tossing well to coat. Add the olive oil mixture to the herbs and toss to combine. Divide between bowls, garnish with basil leaves and cheese and serve warm.

Origin of the recipe

Adapted from “Half-Baked Harvest Every Day” by Tieghan Gerard (Clarkson Potter, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

Email your questions to the Food Section.

Email your questions to the food section at food@washpost.com.