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Herb and Walnut Pesto


This mixed herb pesto more closely resembles the original Pesto di Verdure than it does the comparitively pungent pure-basil pesto that is commonplace today.  Pesto di Verdure (translation: pounded lush green herbs) was the original Italian seasoning, made each fall from parsley and other herbs,  comparitively small amounts of garlic and parmigiano, and no nuts - then stored in small jars sealed only by a layer of locally pressed olive oil.  Only a tablespoon or two was used at a time to flavour pasta, tomato sauce, polenta, broths and other classic dishes.

This recipe is super quick and easy, and a little goes a very long way.   As delicious as a main on pasta (or cold pasta salad), as on chunks of fresh bread.  Place a tablespoon or two on goat cheese or brie - before baking in the oven to spread on crackers.  Add 1/8 cup or so to a saute pan with fresh shrimp, then skewer for 'instant appies'.  We use walnuts for their creamy pine-nut-like consistency, and sunflower seeds for their crunch.  Pine nuts are traditional pesto ingredients and can indeed be substituted if you don't mind the expense.  This is an excellent make-ahead-and-freeze recipe item.
Use C@H one-lid containers and quick-dissolve water-soluble labels if you do.Domenica Fiore Pesto Ingredients 575x292






We were lucky enough to get our hands on a 3L tin of limited production Domenica Fiore Olio Classico (so limited, only three restaurants in Canada may purchase it).  Classico's peppery spice stood up beautifully to our aged peccorino, and the gorgeous colour of Domenica Fiore Olio Reserva (available through C@H) tempted me to dive right in after drizzling a gorgeous emerald skim coat.  This recipe makes enough pesto for six main-course pasta servings, or dozens of appetizers.

  • 2 cups fresh mixed herb(s) of your choice (see notes below for suggestions)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled (roasted or confit garlic is a sweet and lovely alternative, but use 5)
  • 1 cup olive oil or 1/2 cup each olive and avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup each walnut pieces and sunflower seeds.
  • 1/3 cup each grated pecorino romano and asiago cheese (or one cup pecorino)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional as pecorino can be salty enough)

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Add the basil and herbs (leaves only, no stems), the garlic, salt and half the oil to a food processor fitted with a large bowl.  Process continuously for 20 seconds, then pulse until mixture is finely chopped.  Add the cheese and nuts and process further, while streaming the remaining oil in through the feed tube.  Adjust seasoning and add more oil if the mixture is too dry.  Domenica Fiore Pesto Freeze 575x262





If you are not using the pesto straight away, then drizzle an excellent finishing quality olive oil overtop of the pesto (skim coat) to prevent oxidization of the beautiful green herbs.  We make about 24 batches of fresh pesto each fall and freeze 8-oz portions in C@H one-lid freezer-safe containers and quick-dissolve water-soluble labels.  If you are a pesto lover, that's a batch every two weeks or so until the next year's herb harvest. 

The mixed herbs we use to complement the basil are a mixture (in any proportion) of parsley, pineapple sage, varigated and purple sage, lemon verbena, golden oregano (hot), Greek oregano and mint.

Blue basil can be combined with the traditional Italian (Genovese) type, though take care as blue basil has a stronger flavour and too much of it can muddy an otherwise lovely bright green pesto.

If using frozen pesto as a pasta sauce/topping.  Defrost and/or warm slightly but do not overheat, or the oil will separate out and the cheese will turn gummy and lumpy.  At this point, the juice and fine zest of one-half to one whole lemon can be added to the pesto (adding it earlier results in  the lovely green herbs turning brown).  Cook and drain pasta and then toss with pesto warm or room temperature pesto.  Can be used fresh as a filling or spread, or thawed from frozen.

 CH logo 50x50C@H FOOD FOR THOUGHT.  For a super quick and easy meatless main or side dish, serve herb pesto over roast spaghetti squash.  Simply cut a small or large spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, brush with olive oil and place cut halves cut-side-down on a parchment-lined baking tray.  bake at 350F for 60-90 minutes (size dependant) until fork tender.  Use a fork to gently pull the strings of squash 'spaghetti' from the shells, drizzle with pesto thinned with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, garnish with pecorino curls and serve.  Kids love this, especially if they each get their own tiny half. Gorgeous, tasty, healthy!
Spaighetti Squash with Pesto 600w

 CH logo 50x50MORE C@H FOOD FOR THOUGHT.  Use your blue or purple basil to make gorgeous garnet-coloured basil-infused vinegar.  Use two large handfuls of basil leaves and flowers (flowers are best for adding colour) to every litre of cider or white wine vinegar. CH Blue Basil-infused vinegar triple 575x143 

Place basil in heatproof non-reactive bowl and bruise gently with a wooden spoon.  Heat cider but do not boil, pour over basil and stir gently.  Cover and leave to infuse for up to two weeks.  Pour through several layers of cheese cloth (6-8) or a coffee filter, into beautiful glass jars or bottles. Discard leaves (rinse well before composting as acidic vinegar will harm plants).
Store vinegar in a cool, dark place until ready to use or give to someone you really like.

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C@H Kitchen