Tieghan Gerard’s recipe for spring pasta is a big crowd puller

Tieghan Gerard's recipe for spring pasta is a big crowd puller

Nutty, spicy spring pasta

Total time:45 minutes


Total time:45 minutes


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If there’s one term that comes to mind when I think of blogger, cookbook author and social media star Tieghan Gerard’s food, it’s this: crowd pleaser.

founder of the Half Baked Harvest brandGerard is known for cooking for her large family — which includes five brothers and a sister — in the Colorado mountains. So her recipes are large-scale, decadent, and comforting, and she learned early on how to make them appealing to people with a wide range of preferences. After all, if there’s one thing worse than reading a stranger’s DM or Tweet that they didn’t like something you made, it’s hearing a loved one on the other side of the table.

Not sure if Gerard has been criticized too much, at least not lately. Her fan base is so loyal that her books tend to skyrocket to the top of bestseller lists with thousands of positive reviews; at the time of writing, she occupies two spots in Amazon’s top 10 selling cookbooks. And when I interviewed Gerard, 28, in front of a packed house at Sixth & I in Washington in Marchthe crowd hung on her every word and laughed like old friends who were in on the joke when she talked about her mother’s fondness for bland food or one of her brother’s love of spices.

In her new book, ‘Half Baked Harvest Every Day’, Gerard focuses on what she calls ‘feel-good food’.

“I really wanted to focus on color and balance and bring in more veggies and create a cookbook that can be easily adapted to many food sensitivities,” she said at the Sixth & I event. “The questions I get the most are, ‘How can I make this gluten-free? How can I make this dairy-free?’ One of the great things about me is that I’ve been able to please, you know, a little bit of everyone.”

These recipes are not spartan; they are as large and plentiful as ever. Take her Nutty, Herby Spring Pasta, which she describes as her seasonal interpretation of the “warm, cheesy pasta straight out of the oven” that she depends on during Colorado’s long, snowy winters. This still has that cozy, comforting vibe, but with asparagus, leeks, and plenty of fresh basil—along with the spark of vinegar and apple juice to brighten and lighten.

In true Tieghan Gerard fashion, the recipe has some carb-on-carb action with the addition of baby potatoes along with pasta, and she lets you cook them at the same time. After you’ve drained the pasta and potatoes, use the same pan to cook the leeks and quickly fry the asparagus, then mix the potatoes and pasta together — plus a basil-and-nut-heavy oil that you puree in the food processor and a generous amount of shredded manchego cheese, a nice change from the standard Parmesan.

“It’s by no means a health book, guys,” Gerard told the audience at Sixth & I. “There’s still cheese and butter and all the good stuff I love.”

There is indeed. But as promised, the adjustments are pretty obvious. Gerard didn’t suggest this, so I’ll: Making the recipe vegan would mean simply swapping nutritional yeast for the manchego, ramping up the nutty — and not losing a bit of crowd-pleasing along the way.

Nutty, spicy spring pasta

Feel free to choose your favorite pasta shape; we prefer something short and bite-sized, such as orecchiette, macaroni, penne or fusilli. (Ideally pick one that will take about 10 minutes for al dente to match the cooking time of the baby potatoes.) It comes together in one saucepan, plus a food processor – although you can do the chopping by hand if you’re happy . This remains beautiful, making it a good choice for a packed lunch or picnic.

ahead: The 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: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended.

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  • 8 ounces of 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, pepitas, 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 teaspoon fine salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise by the root
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely grated or pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc (can substitute 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar plus 2 tablespoons water)
  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated manchego cheese (can substitute nutritional yeast or a vegan Parmesan such as Violife brand), plus more to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and pasta and cook according to package directions until pasta is al dente and potatoes are barely cooked. (The potatoes will take about 10 minutes.) Drain them 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 pulse until finely chopped. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse to combine.

Rinse the leeks under running water and separate the leaves with your fingers to allow water to get in (to remove any grainy debris). Shake them dry and cut them into thin half moons.

In the same pan used for cooking the pasta, over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering. Add the leek and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes until lightly browned and soft. Add the asparagus, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is just tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, scraping 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 necessary.

Add the potatoes, pasta, and cheese to the pan and stir well to coat. Add the herb-olive oil mixture and toss together. Divide between bowls, garnish with more basil leaves and cheese, and serve warm.

Calories: 568; Total fat: 19 g; Saturated fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 13mg; Sodium: 507mg; Carbohydrates: 76 g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; sugar: 9 g; Protein: 16 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Half-baked harvest every day” by Tieghan Gerard (Clarkson Potter, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; e-mail questions to [email protected]

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