We first tasted walnut pesto in Florence a few years ago but it has taken us a while to get around to making it ourselves. This works equally well for a casual dinner or in smaller portions as a starter and it tastes really special. You can make this with fresh walnuts which you buy whole and shell yourself but it also works well with shelled walnuts, provided you make sure they are fresh (we buy our walnuts from Lidl which come in a sealed foil bag). You can keep the pesto in the fridge for up to a week and it freezes well too.
Wine Suggestion: we like to drink dry white wines that have texture and a certain crunchiness with walnuts, which aren’t always easy to match. Italian whites come to mind first and the nutty ones work very well, like Verdicchio, but it has been dry (sec) Jurançon that has proved a stellar match, like Cauhapé’s Chants des Vignes. A wine with a vibrancy of fruit, a fresh acidity like a crunchy green and red apple mix, some white flowers in the aromas and a texture on the palate that carries through with a long length and food friendly finish.
Pasta with creamy walnut pesto – serves 4 (with some pesto left over)
- 400g orecchiette pasta
- 175g walnut halves/pieces
- handful fresh basil, roughly torn
- 100g Parmesan, freshly grated, plus extra to serve
- 50g butter
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 50ml double cream
Cook the pasta for the recommended time on the packet.
Meanwhile, put the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add the basil, cheese, butter and oil and pulse for a few more times, then season.
Pour the cream into a pan and warm through. Add tw0-thirds of the pesto, then gently heat to loosen it.
Take 2 tbsp of water out of the pasta pan before draining, then mix the pasta and the water into the sauce. Serve immediately with some extra Parmesan and a few basil leaves.
(Original recipe by Ursula Ferringo in BBC Good Food Magazine, April 2009.)