Flat-leaf parsley adds a bunch of flavor to pasta, salads

Think of parsley as an ingredient, not just a garnish, and you'll never wonder what to do with the rest of a bunch again. Parsley can be found year-round but is especially welcome in early spring, when it's an affordable source of fresh flavor. Parsley is available in two common varieties: curly and flat-leaf (also known as Italian). Flat-leaf parsley works best in the following recipes because of its intense flavor and more appealing texture.

Look for parsley that is vibrant green and free of wilting or yellowing leaves. At home, remove parsley from its plastic bag and wash well with cold water. Dry and store the bunch, loosely rolled in paper towels, in a resealable plastic bag for up to one week.

Much more than a garnish, parsley adds a clean, bright flavor to a range of dishes, such as soups, stews, sautes, dips, pastas and salads. In general, the leaves and the tender stems close to them are best for eating, and the tougher stems can be used to flavor broths, soups and stews.

Pea and parsley pesto with linguine

For pasta anytime, freeze extra pesto in ice-cube trays, up to three months; thaw before using.

Serves 4

2 cups frozen peas (from a 10-ounce bag)

1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

12 ounces linguine

1. Cook 1 cup peas according to package instructions. In a food processor, combine cooked peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and 1 tablespoon water. Pulse until a paste forms. With machine running, slowly add oil, processing until blended; season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, adding 1 cup of peas 30 seconds before end of cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and peas. Return pasta and peas to pot; toss with 3/4 cup pesto (reserve remainder for another use), adding enough pasta water to create a sauce that coats pasta. Serve pasta with more Parmesan.

Nutritional information per serving: 546 calories, 19 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 20 grams protein, 76 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber.

Crisp pita salad

Whole parsley leaves add brightness to this crunchy Mediterranean salad. If you like, boost the flavor even more with our version of Za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend.

Serves 4

1 pita, split and torn into bite-size pieces

1 recipe Za'atar (optional, above right)

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 head romaine lettuce, torn

1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, torn

2 scallions, sliced

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss pita with 1 1/2 tablespoons Za'atar (if using) and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake until pita chips are golden, about 12 minutes to 15 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint, scallions, pita chips and remaining Za'atar. Season salad with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information per serving: 285 calories, 20 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 6 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber.

Za'atar spice blend: Combine 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper.

Shrimp and rice salad with parsley

Serves 4

Cook 1 cup long-grain white rice according to package instructions. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 garlic clove, minced, and 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, and cook until shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add cooked rice, 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped, and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. (To store, refrigerate, up to 3 days.)

Nutritional information per serving: 300 calories, 8 grams fat (1 grams saturated fat), 15 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber.

Bean, red onion and parsley salad

Serves 4

In a bowl, combine 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Nutritional information per serving: 227 calories, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 8 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber.

Everyday Food magazine offers quick, healthy solutions for everyday meals -- from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.