Minty Pea Pesto

Minty pea pesto

My brother texted me this quote yesterday morning and it seemed terribly appropriate. “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.” The full letter by John Steinbeck to his son is worth reading if you can spare a minute.

I felt a weight lift as I crossed the Oklahoma border this weekend. Suddenly I have a full social calendar—happy hour, lunch, dinner, trivia night at a smoky bar—and catching up with those who know me best seems to be doing me some good. I’m almost wondering why I left in the first place.

Fresh peas

I threw together this pea pesto before I left Kansas City. My friend Alissa told me about a pea pesto that she made last week and I couldn’t get the concept out of my head. Sweet fresh peas and creamy cashews brightened with lemon and mint seemed like a winning combination, plus the flavors reminded me of the spring pea and asparagus pasta that I enjoyed so much earlier this month.

Pea pesto ingredients

I wasn’t sure what to serve the pesto on, but I came across some brown arborio rice in my pantry and mixed the two together for a creamy, almost risotto-like blend. While it is not the most photogenic of dishes, it is a simple, comforting meal that is easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. Thin slices of crisp radish break up the texture and provide some complementary color to liven up the presentation.

If you like to cook fish, I imagine this would make a great side dish for it. You could also use the pesto as a spread on crostini or toss it with pasta instead of rice (my friend Alissa served her pesto on spaghetti squash). I bet it would even be good on scrambled eggs or an omelet, or tossed with roasted fingerling potatoes.

pea pesto and radishes

If you’re going the rice route, please take note of the cooking method I used here for the brown rice. I’ve finally found the trick to cooking perfectly tender, not mushy brown rice!

The method from Saveur is simple: bring a big pot of water to a boil, dump in rinsed brown rice of any variety, and boil for 30 minutes. Drain the rice (reserve some of the cooking water if you’re making this pesto), return the rice to the pot, and cover. Let the rice steam in the pot for 10 minutes, and voila, you have perfectly cooked brown rice!

Minty pea pesto recipe

Minty Pea Pesto with Rice and Radishes
5.0 from 2 reviews
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 to 4
Fresh pea pesto made with cashews and mint mixed with brown arborio rice. A warm, simple meal for cool spring evenings.
  • 1½ cups arborio/short grain brown rice (or any other variety of brown rice)
  • 2 cups fresh peas (from approximately 1½ pounds peas in pods) or a 10-ounce package frozen peas
  • 2 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ⅓ cup raw cashews
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 packed tablespoons mint leaves (more to taste)
  • ½ lemon, juiced (more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup reserved rice or pasta cooking water (or plain water if necessary)
  • 6 radishes, end removed and sliced into super thin rounds
  1. Make the rice: bring a big pot of water to a boil, dump in rinsed brown rice and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water for the pesto as you drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover. Let the rice steam in the pot for 10 minutes.
  2. Make the pesto: Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (they should be tender to the bite but retain a bit of structure). Drain peas and let them cool down for a few minutes.
  3. Set aside ½ cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining peas in a food processor with garlic, cashews, Parmesan, mint, lemon juice and salt until smooth, (about 2 to 3 minutes), scraping down the bowl as necessary. While the machine is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste, and add more mint, lemon juice and/or salt if desired.
  4. The pesto will be very thick, so stir in up to ½ cup cooking water to thin it out if you are tossing the pesto with rice (or pasta). Mix the pesto into the cooked brown rice and season with salt to taste. Stir in the leftover peas and the sliced radishes. Sprinkle more grated Parmesan cheese over the dish if desired. Serve warm.


  1. Caroline Hissa says

    This looks delicious! And definitely reminds me of spring time – especially needed right now as I had to scrape frost of my car windows this morning here in Canada.

    And LOVE the brown rice method from Saveur – I’ve been using it now for maybe six months. Finally no more serving sticky, goopy rice to my friends and family! Perfect every time :)

  2. says

    I love that line ‘Nothing good gets away’. It really resonates with me at the moment, thank you for sharing. And, of course, thank you for sharing this delicious dish. I love how bright and fresh and vibrant it is; everything that you could want in a spring meal.

  3. Grace says

    Trying to use up all of my vegetables before my trip this weekend and I have some sad peas and radishes I thought would go to waste. Just the thing for dinner tonight! Nothin good gets away. Enjoy your time home!

  4. says

    I can’t wait to find fresh peas and radishes at the farmer’s market! This sounds so good, I might have to buy everything from the grocery store right now, just to give it a try. By the way, I cook all kinds of rice (brown or white) the same way. No more clumpy rice!

  5. says

    I love that quote and I feel like it can be applied to pretty much everything in life! That’s the best attitude with which to approach disappointment or heartache. This mint pesto shouts SPRING to me! Which I need a bit more of in my life right now.

  6. says

    Yum! I’ve been experimenting with different pestos lately, and find them so easy to whip up. I often throw them on brown rice too, to switch things up from pasta.

    “If it’s right, it happens.” SO true. I’m learning a lot lately that what’s meant to happen will come. As long as you work hard and keep your head up, all the right things take place.

  7. Jonda says

    Deliciousness! I can’t wait to try it this weekend with spaghetti squash! Did you soak the cashews before processing? Thanks for all your great recipes!

  8. says

    Ooh yes you are speakin’ my language today!! :) I love pea-based pesto, but have never tried blending in cashews (I’m usually a pine nuts or walnuts kinda gal!) Sounds like you’ve got a big social calendar coming up but a fun one too. Enjoy every minute!

  9. says

    I love that letter by John Steinbeck because it serves as an assuring reminder of the light in the world, but also as a note to actively pursue what is good and make it yours. Glad you’re enjoying your people and lovely times in Oklahoma, lady (trivia nights are my fave).

    Oy, I can’t wait until we have fresh peas here so I can make yummy bowl-y things like this. Love that shot of the goodies in the food processor.

  10. says


    Just read the letter and after knowing a little of the backstory, it gave me chills — you’re lucky to have such a thoughtful brother. I love that Steinbeck emphasizes that the feeling of love is good no matter what the outcome — as in, we’re lucky to experience it all, independent of the loved party. Makes the complexity of it all feel worth it, not a wasteful.

  11. says

    I’m definitely going to make this! I think I’ll add it to farro since I added spinach pesto to it the other week and liked the texture. I love using my food processor too! I’m glad to hear your time at home was good. Brothers can be so thoughtful :)

  12. Vicky says

    I don’t know wheather you know this or not but ‘Parmesan’ cheese is not vegetarian…it is made using calf rennet. Just thought I should point this out.

  13. Marla says

    I thought this was a great way to get rid of some leftover mint that I bought for another recipe that I made to get rid of leftover rosemary I had after making your spectacular pumpkin fettucine alfredo. But this dish (although simple and super easy) was so much more than a practical solution to use up leftover fresh herbs. I really enjoyed this. The pesto tastes (to me) so much like basil pesto, which is one of my favorite foods. I will get some radishes from the store later to have with the rest of the pesto and rice, so I can have it as you prescribed, since you seem to be so awesome at creating delicious recipes. Btw, I subbed nutritional yeast for the parmesan, to make this vegan.

  14. says

    oooh yum!! Enjoy your time at home :) The green in your shots is beautiful, and makes me so hopeful for spring. We’re finally seeing the trees emerge from hibernation here. It couldn’t come at a better time.

  15. says

    Kate, spring is *the* time for renewal. I won’t go into a longwinded story about my own personal love-lost-and-regained, but it’s true: nothing good gets away. And sometimes you just need good friends and a little bit of time to get you through the tough spots. Of course a good meal doesn’t hurt either :) This looks wonderful! I just ate at this awesome restaurant in Denver called Beast + Bottle. They served a pea pesto (no mint) on top of freshly made linguine, topped with wild watercress (I hadn’t realized they grow wild). That dish and a glass of wine hit the spot. I was thinking about recreating the dish this week, and then I saw your post. Perfect timing…have a wonderful week. xo

    • says

      Batya, thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. I hope to visit my friend in Denver soon and will definitely try to go to Beast + Bottle while I’m there! That pea pesto dish sounds wonderful.

  16. Meg D says

    Impatiently waiting for my brown rice to cook and sneaking bites of pesto straight from the food processor. Exactly what I needed after a long week! Thank you for the great recipe!

  17. says

    Hello! I have an abundance of fresh garden peas from our late spring in northern MN. Looks great. Stupid question, perhaps: pestos always call for some kind of nuts. Why? I have made them nut-free due to allergies, and frankly haven’t noticed much of a difference. Between the cost of nuts going sky high (especially pine nuts) and the calories, I am tempted to get my protein and MUFAs somewhere where the taste is more pronounced…unless you can tell me why nuts in pesto is so important! Many thanks.

    • says

      Hey Laura, great question. There’s nothing wrong with making pesto without nuts, but I’m not sure it technically qualifies as a pesto without the nuts! Regardless, any combination of olive oil, herbs and Parmesan is going to be tasty, and that’s all that matters. :)

  18. Barbara Taylor says

    Hi Kate,

    Thought you might like to know that nearly two years on from postingthis recpe it’s still being discovered.

    I switched it up a little and used the pesto as a sauce on top of blanched, spiralized zucchini and topped it with chunks of feta cheese (so basically I skipped the rice and radishes).

    I keep being asked to repeat the recipe by my OH!

    With thanks from across the pond (UK!).


    • says

      Hi Barbara! Thanks for saying hello. I’m glad you enjoyed the pesto. Your version sounds great. By the way, we share the same last name!

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