Jars of pesto are boring. Sure they are convenient, but you’ll open one jar, use a spoonful and then it will linger in the back of the fridge alongside some black pitted olives, slowly sprouting some nice looking mould to scare you when you open it again a month later. To avoid this little green monster, I’ve taken to making my own pesto using all fresh ingredients without leaving any leftovers to sprout in the fridge.
As January has crept back into our lives again, my comfort food radar has been screaming CARBONARA on repeat whenever I get in from the cold. Despite my previous efforts to stick by my cookie diet (go for a walk, eat a cookie), I know that a vat of cream and bacon may just tip the scales in the wrong direction after a Christmas of too much Pinot Grigio and breaded king prawns.
However, the magic of this pesto is that it turns wonderfully creamy with a splash of cooking water swirled into a bowl of linguine. Carbonara? Pah, I’ve forgotten what that is.
All the traditional elements of pesto are in this dish, with a few added twists. The mushrooms give it a meaty flavour, whilst the toasted walnuts give this pesto a great nutty texture. With a good handful of parmesan, this dish feels like it is bursting with cream, but is actually full of vegetable goodness.
You can prepare this pesto in advance and chill in the fridge, so all you need to do is cook your pasta fresh, reducing your time in the kitchen. If you’re eating for one, no problem. Just use half and refrigerate the rest. This pesto would also go great as an alternative bruschetta topping, or add half a pint of vegetable stock and blend to make a tasty soup.
You Will Need
½ white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
6-7 mushrooms, sliced
1 handful of walnut pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large handful of finely grated parmesan
Large bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to season
Linguine to serve
Preheat the oven to 180oc fan/200oc/gas mark 4. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. In a separate saucepan over a medium heat, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft.
Once the pasta has been cooking for 4 minutes, add the walnuts to a small baking tray and drizzle with a little oil. Toast in the oven for 6 minutes, turning halfway.
Add the basil to the mushroom mix and cook for a further minute, then transfer to a glass jug. Add the toasted walnuts, the majority of the parmesan (reserving some for later) and a good glug of olive oil. Season well and with a stick blender, blitz until coarse, but not pureed.
Drain the pasta, reserving a tablespoon of cooking water to help the pesto bind to the linguine. Mix in the pesto until fully incorporated and creamy.
Transfer to two warmed bowls and serve with a sprinkling of the remaining parmesan, baby basil leaves and a good helping of black pepper.