The pictures shown here are of a wonderful sage, brown butter sauce served over penne with sharp asiago and rich, earthy walnuts. However, I don’t have any pictures to go with this delicious pesto recipe so they’ll have to do. Thank you for your understanding…
Marvin Ogburn from Long Meadow Farm emailed me one Friday morning. “I have A LOT of arugula this week. What can you do with it?” We headed to the kitchen that night and worked on an arugula pesto. Out of several variations we learned that blanching the leaves first removes too much of the arugula flavor, chopping the walnuts before lightly toasting them eliminates the raws taste without burning the outsides, and salt carefully – the cheese already adds a lot. We tested the recipe over pasta, but it was wonderful the next morning, at Eastern Market, over boiled and sliced fingerling potatoes.
*Did you have a copy of Free Stuff for Kids when you were young? It was a list of free things you could send away for. Often they required so many boxtops or SASE’s that no one but a bored child would ever actually send away for them. I remember at least one or two required some small change, usually a couple quarters, to pay for printing of the edifying pamphlet describing banana spiders or the geography of Arkansas that you would receive in return. The instructions always admonished that the coins needed to be securely taped to your request letter. I assumed that not doing so would shame my elders.
While this comment seems totally random, I am going somewhere with it. I really think you should try this recipe in a mortar and pestle. It’s a little more work, but the texture and control over the final product is well worth it. As an incentive, if you give it a try, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you a letter of congratulations and two quarters. I’ll make sure they are securely taped.
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese*
- 2 cups arugula (not packed)
- Black pepper
- Olive oil – the good stuff
* Grate the Parmesan on the middle side of a box grater. This gives you a nice bite of cheese and doesn’t get too gummy when pounded.
This can be made either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.
- Add garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Pound garlic into a paste.
- Toast walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Watch carefully, nuts burn quickly. they are ready when golden and lightly fragrant.
- Add walnuts to garlic paste and pound until it looks like thick, chunky peanut butter.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and pound until incorporated.
- Add the arugula a handful at a time and pound away. Add more when you have room in your mortar.
- Add cracked pepper to taste. Start with 5-6 grinds and go from there.
- Add olive oil to thin and bind. Start with a tablespoon. You shouldn’t need more than two.
Note: If your paste gets too thick during pounding, you can add a little olive oil to thin it out.
In a food processor:
- Add garlic, walnuts and cheese to a food processor. Pulse until chopped together. About 4-6 times.
- Add arugula and process until coarsely blended. Keep it rustic as opposed to pureed.
- Remove pesto to a bowl. Stir in pepper, salt and olive oil.