Pestos are a mainstay of my cooking. They are so rich, so vibrant and yet so easy to make that I’ve come up with dozens of variations over the years. This one is a traditional Italian winter pesto that features walnuts and parsley — only I am using wild black walnuts here.
What’s the difference? Black walnuts are smaller and are far more flavorful than regular walnuts. Most recipes suggest that when you are using black walnuts you cut in half the amount you use. Not here. I want a powerful walnut punch, and this recipe delivers it in spades.
I make my pestos with a mortar and pestle — the texture comes out better that way. But, if you are in a hurry, you can buzz everything in a food processor. Just make certain you don’t accidentally make a puree! Pulse everything, don’t let the motor run on your processor.
How to use this pesto? With pasta, of course, or over polenta, mixed into risotto at the last minute, or — and this is my favorite — dropped into a winter minestrone soup, right at the end.
Makes about 3/4 of a cup
- 3/4 cup black walnuts, or regular walnuts
- 1 cup chopped parsley, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- Black pepper to taste
- Put all the ingredients except for the oil into a large mortar and grind to a stiff paste. Once everything is pretty well ground, drizzle in about a quarter of the olive oil and grind it into the pesto. Repeat with another quarter of the oil and then another, until you have incorporated all the oil into the pesto.
- Taste for salt, and add if needed. Serve right away, or put in a covered container with plastic wrap set down right on the top of the pesto to keep out air. This help keep the color nice and bright. use within a couple days, or freeze for up to 6 months.