Pasta with fake walnut pesto, a five-minute-or-so meal for the not-so-spring-like spring days

Walnut pesto pasta

This recipe being much more easier than my previous one, I’d rather like to call it a method suggestion than a recipe. The main feature of it is pasta, which are another kind of comfort food than rice for me, since they’re always the matter of a few minutes (if only using ready-prepared pasta). Besides, spring means amongst others eating more pasta dishes, enhanced from the fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables newly available on markets ; vibrant, tasty and light pasta dishes are then easy to come up with. I admit however that this one isn’t really a spring-looking pasta dish, but rather an all-time, humble one. I like to serve it on cooler or rainy days, when I wish or need to have a meal ready within 5 minutes or so.  Made with few and inexpensive ingredients, this dish is worthy though of making up for the lack of basil, tomatoes, or the like – that is, the seasonal produces you might be used to associate with pasta. That is why I wanted to share it with you before the days turn obviously warmer.

As I already suggested it in this recipe, I’m quite a nut lover, insomuch that I could munch on them all day long – walnuts being my favorites among them. Given this immoderate passion, it’s no surprise that when I first heard of a « walnut pesto » in a TV food-show series (namely « Kitchen Nightmares », which reached our country a few years ago) it turned into my new fancy. This pesto was initially served along with grilled salmon (likely as a cold dressing) and sautéed vegetables on the side ; yet since herb pestos are basically enjoyed with pasta and we both like eating pasta quite often, I had a mind to associate the walnut pesto with pasta, to make a change from our usual bolognese or carbonara.

But finding a right recipe has been quite an issue for me. I pounced on the Internet to grab one that we enjoyed first a lot. Then, after several times, our taste for it declined since it was good-tasting, but too greasy. I tried it several other ways, it always turned out as if we were eating oil by the spoon though, plus no means to coat the pasta evenly as it might be done with a more classic pesto. It hasn’t been that difficult to identify where the problem came from. Indeed, it was the need to serve the pesto more or less at the same temperature than the pasta, to avoid eating them cold : no matter which way the paste was warmed, the melting cheese made the walnuts turn into big chewy lumps, and the oil plus the grease released from cheese and walnuts tended unavoidably to separate from the solids.

But I did persevere and I’m glad I finally have a good method to share with you today ! It was as simple as thinking to deconstruct it even more, as it anyway wasn’t mean to be a traditional pesto with aromatics (which really need to be pounded with the other ingredients to develop their flavours). The principle is to cook and add separately to the pasta the ingredients of the pesto, which thus turns into a « fake pesto ». By the way, this allows you to leave the dish a more or less pronounced crunchy edge by grinding the walnuts to your desired consistency. Then, since we want the walnuts to flavour the dish, they are to be heated with the oil that should have been used to make the pesto into a paste (I use a mix of walnut oil and olive oil to enhance walnuts’ taste) ; after this step, the pasta could be coated evenly, and grated cheese would only be mixed in at the last minute to keep it from melting too much and turn sticky. If like me you’re nuts about walnuts, I highly recommend you to try it !

Note : For added flavour and a more fresh and colored result, consider adding some parsley and lemon zest toward the end of cooking, in the way of a gremolata minus garlic (of which taste would be too strong here). Or feel free to blend the ingredients of what I like to call the « fake pesto » into a paste and serve it with some fish, like the recipe which inspired me did.

Walnut pesto pasta

Ingredients (serving 2) :

  • 200 gr good quality dried pasta or a similar amount of fresh pasta (linguine are a good choice as far as I’m concerned)
  • 100 gr shelled walnut
  • 60-70g gr grated parmesan cheese or the like (I use Grana Padano, which tastes milder)
  • 8 level tbsp walnut oil (or substitute 6 tbsp groundnut oil)
  • 2 level tbsp olive oil (4 tbsp if not using walnut oil)
  • salt, pepper

Walnut pesto ingredients

Method :

Blend the walnuts to a fine or coarser powder, to your liking.

Start cooking the pasta in boiling salted water, according to the instructions on the package.

Combine the oils in a sautéing pan and put it over medium heat.

When the oils get hot enough, add the walnuts and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re aromatic and slighlty browned. Take the pan off the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water, and add them to the pan along with this water and some pepper to taste.

Mix thoroughly over low heat, then turn the heat off and stir in the grated parmesan cheese, right before serving. Add salt to taste if needed. Voilà, that’s it !

Walnut pesto pasta

Enjoy !

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