Avocado Tarragon Pesto Pasta is a very quick, very easy, very green way to liven up any weeknight meal.
This post was originally published on April 8, 2018. It has been updated with new photos and content. Enjoy!
Remember when nobody ate avocados? It’s like remembering a time when the internet didn’t exist – we (if you’re anywhere near my age or older) know it happened, but it seems like a different universe from the social media, targeted ad, robot-controlled thermostat, phone party that is 2019.
I vaguely recall the first time I had an avocado, and let me tell you, it was NOT love and first bite. First of all it looks like something a dinosaur might hatch from. Once I got past the alligator like skin into the creamy, green flesh, I still wasn’t super impressed. It’s hard to believe that I didn’t immediately fall to my knees to worship at the altar of the mighty avocado. But with time, and outside persuasion, I eventually got on the avo-train to basic town.
Of course it’s easy to make fun. Especially when the hashtag dedicated to avocado toast garners over 1.2 MILLION results. But really guys, it’s a fruit. It can’t be that laughable. So let’s get serious – haha no not really. But here’s a solid, quick, delicious recipe for something other than avocado toast.
Avocado Tarragon Pesto Pasta
Buttery, creamy avocados plus my favorite carb on the planet? I think that beats some silly old toast. And to make things even more interesting, let’s throw in some fresh herbs, spicy chili flakes, and a hint of lemon. Oh and did I mention that you can have this on the table in the time it takes the pasta to cook? Yeah I know, I totally buried the lede.
So if you’ve got fifteen minutes, a pound of pasta and few odds and ends, you’ve got an incredibly vibrant and tasty dinner ahead of you. But if you need some pointers first read on my friend.
How to make avocado pesto
This really could not be easier, buuuuuut it is helpful if you have a food processor or high powered blender at your disposal. If you don’t you can finely chop all the veg and then mash it together with the avocado (a la guacamole). It won’t ever be as smooth but it will still be plenty delicious.
Assuming you’ve got the machinery covered, just throw it all in there, blend it into a creamy green sauce that would make even Kermit a little envious and toss with hot pasta. You won’t really be cooking the sauce at all, but do make sure to reserve about a cup of pasta water to thin out the sauce as you’re tossing everything together. You probably won’t use it all, but it’s always better to have the option. Plus that liquid is loaded with starch from cooking the pasta, and pre-seasoned to boot.
Seasoning your pasta
Speaking of which, are you salting your pasta water? I don’t mean a pinch or two by the way. I use roughly two to three tablespoons of kosher salt for about eight quarts of water. I know it seems like a lot, but most of it will get left in the water, and it’s the only opportunity you have to season the noodle itself. And that, my friends, is the difference between an OK bowl of pasta and one that you’ll think about as you fall asleep at night.
What’s with the tarragon?
Tarragon is a unique herb. If you’ve never had it before I urge you to at least try it. It’s tender, vibrant, with just a hint of licoricey flavor. But I promise it’s not like eating a Twizzler. It pairs so well with the creamy avocado, lightening it up a bit and making it perfect for an easy summer meal. In fact I’m obsessed with it for all things summer. Try it sprinkled into your favorite chicken salad, shaken up in a zesty vinaigrette, or even mixed into a crunchy breadcrumb topping for a simple piece of roasted fish.
But if you’re still not sold on tarragon that’s OK. I promise I’m not offended. You can simply omit it from the recipe and all will be well. The dish will still be delicious, creamy, vibrant, and memorable. If you’d like to substitute for another herb though, feel free! Any tender herb (ie: leafy, not woody) will lend a subtle but interesting flavor to the mix. My personal favorites would be basil or mint, but I’ve also tossed in a handful of peppery arugula with great results.
Finishing your pasta
Because this dish comes together so fast it’s easy to just plop it on a plate and call it a day. And to be honest, it’s beautiful in its simplicity and absolutely does not need any flourish to finish it off. But even so, who doesn’t love a little sprinkle of something nice at the end? A squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of special olive oil, or a dash of extra chili flake can really bring it all to the next level. So not mandatory, but something to think about – literal food for thought if you will…sorry, I couldn’t resist.
But whatever herbs, garnishes, flourishes, you choose. I guarantee that you will LOVE this healthy, green, vibrant, delicious dish if you take a quick fifteen minutes to make it. And if you do, I’d so appreciate it if you’d leave a comment or pin it for later. Happy eating!
Avocado Tarragon Pesto Pasta
Avocado Tarragon Pesto Pasta is a healthy, vibrant, herbaceous, and beautifully creamy recipe that you can have on the table in a scant 15 minutes!
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 10 Minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 4-6 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
1 lb dried pasta (I used spaghetti)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 C parsley (or a big ol handful, small, tender stems are fine)
¼ C tarragon, no stems
2 C baby spinach (or two big handfuls)
1 avocado, peeled and pitted, roughly chopped
¼ C plain yogurt
1 T lemon juice
2 T extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1–2 T water
red pepper flakes
optional garnish: dukkah, grated parmesan or pecorino, chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon wedges
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Then salt it aggressively (like a handful or so).
Drop your pasta into the boiling water and stir for about 30 seconds to submerge all the pasta and make sure it’s not sticking.
Meanwhile, in your food processor or big, scary, powerful blender, add the garlic, scallions, parsley, tarragon, and spinach. Pulse until everything is chopped fine.
Add the avocado, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil and kosher salt. Process until smooth, adding the water to thin it out as necessary. I used 1 tablespoon, but I think depending on how heavy handed you are with the spinach and how big your avocado might be, you might need another. When it’s done you should have a creamy sauce that’s a little thinner than hummus, but not quite pourable.
Reserve 1 cup of pasta-cooking water and then drain your pasta into a colander. Then return it to the pot, which is now off heat, and add the avocado sauce. Toss to combine, adding pasta water gradually to bring it to a saucier consistency. Toss for about a minute until you have a very creamy, very green pasta. Season to taste with salt.
Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and garnish as your heart desires.
*If the idea of making the sauce in the time it takes the pasta to cook fills you with molar-grinding anxiety, just make the sauce first (no need to multitask). Then you can give the pasta your full attention. In fact, the sauce has enough lemon juice in it that you could make it ahead and stash it in the fridge for a couple hours if you wanted.
Keywords: meatless meal, fast weeknight meal, avocado pesto, vegetarian pasta