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Tuesday 2 October 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Walnut Pesto

I adore homemade pesto but lets face it, pine nuts are pretty expensive, especially if like me you end up eating most of the pesto whilst actually making it. Let me introduce you to my completely gorgeous walnut pesto which is much cheaper so you can make a big batch and happily eat half of it before it even sees a scrap of pasta.

Walnuts have just come into season and if you can get hold of fresh "wet" walnuts (you can just pop them open by squeezing with your fingers) then save them for pickling or eat them raw and stick to the aged walnuts you can buy ready shelled in shops for this. Aged walnuts have a more earthy taste  than the fresh ones so they add a nice depth to compliment the fresh basil. I always have a bag of walnuts hanging about in the cupboard and whenever I spot bags of basil in the Reduced section of the supermarket then this is what I make.

Traditionally pesto is made from Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheeses but you can use whatever hard or semi hard cheese you fancy. Goat's cheese would be brilliant in this. Just use about 100g of whatever cheese takes your fancy.

You'll need:
  • 200g shelled walnuts
  • 75g fresh basil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 100g hard or semi hard cheese finely grated (I used 50g Grana Padano and 50g sheep's milk Wensleydale left over from my fondue)
  • extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
Make it!
  1. Mash your garlic with your salt using a mortar and pestle then rip up your basil and grind it down. You will have to do it in stages to get it all in, just keep adding more basil until it's all in the mortar as a nice green paste.
  2. Add your walnuts a bit at a time and smash them up. I like to keep mine a bit chunky so smash the first few handfuls to a paste then go easier on the remaining nuts.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in your cheese and enough oil to loosen the mixture until you are happy with it. Add a few grinds of black pepper and taste, add your chilli flakes if using. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes if you can just to let all the flavours develop then stir it into pasta, serve on top of a nice piece of baked fish or just spoon it straight into your mouth! This will keep for about a week if you pop it in a jar and cover with some more oil.
If you can't be bothered to make it using a mortar and pestle then just whack everything in a food processor and blitz away. It's kinda frowned upon to make pesto in a processor but I'd left mine at work and so was forced into making it the traditional way, ace stress reliever though. Made me want to crack open a nice bottle of Sangiovese and indulge myself in the process. Not sure whether it was the pounding of marble implements or the two glasses of wine but I was totally stress free by the time I'd finished making it!

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