Nothing turns the seasonal tide toward light and simple eating like a bright pesto. This one features one of wintertime-turning-to-spring’s favorite vegetables, the delicate broccolini paired with toasty walnuts.
Most often we associate pesto with fresh leafy basil. Fresh, green, bright and oh so summery. But when my harvest of basil is still a few months away, I’m perfectly okay with messing with tradition and adapting ingredients to try something new.
Sure I’ve made pesto with basil, and a version of pesto with spicy, bitter arugula, too. How good is it on pizza? This is how good it is on pizza. And pesto pasta can be served as a main, a side or under a freshly fried egg for breakfast. It’s very open minded that way.
My husband has band practice twice a week (yep he’s a rock star—at least in my eyes anyway) so that means twice a week dinner is girls night for me and my gal Smudge. Invariably when I ask her what she’s in the mood for it’s one of two things: Tomato soup or pesto.
Pesto it is my darling.
With cravings at my fingertips right this minute, I’ve started to skip the basil and using this version with tender broccolini as it’s base.
Some may think of broccolini as the baby version of traditional broccoli, but it’s not. It’s actually a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. With it’s longer stalks and smaller florets, it’s a more delicate version of the more stout broccoli, and has a sweeter, earthy taste.
All of this makes it the perfect candidate for the main ingredient in pesto. And an even better topper for pesto.
This recipe calls for traditional ingredients of garlic and Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Back in the day I too often would look at a pesto recipe and think well if one clove of garlic is what’s called for to make it good, 2 or 3 cloves will definitely make it better.
Garlic can totally overpower a pesto. One plump clove of garlic is truly all you need to give this pesto it’s characteristic flavor but not overpower.
Blanching the broccolini tenderizes the stalks and readies them for whizzing in the food processor with the toasted walnuts. If you prefer another nut, you can surely substitute pine nuts, pecans or even almonds if you have them on hand.
Parmesan cheese gives a milder cheesy flavor but if you like a more pungent salty bite, use pecorino romano instead.
The pesto is prepared in the traditional way by blending the ingredients in a food processor. Be sure to scrape the sides and dig deep into the edge to get all of the delicious nutty flavor incorporated.
One of the things I like most about this recipe is it’s adaptability to be served hot or cold.
Instead of adding cream or more oil to thin the prepared basil, I use some of the pasta water sauce to create a lush sauce for the pasta. The starch from the pasta water thickens the sauce but doesn’t render it solid when it cools, so it’s still as silky as it was warm. Full admission, I’ve eaten the leftovers straight from the fridge, still in the plastic container, and it’s still delicious.
To serve, keep it simple with the addition of toasted walnuts and sprinklings of more parmesan cheese, or reserve a few of the broccolini florets and toss in as well.
If you have extra pesto, save it for eating on toasted crostini with roasted tomatoes and mozzarella or slather it on chicken breasts and roast for dinner.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Linguine with Broccolini and Walnut Pesto
- ⅓ cup plus ¼ cup halved walnuts
- ½ pound broccolini , ends trimmed
- 1 clove garlic , peeled
- ½ lemon , juiced
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- Pinch of kosher salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound linguine
- Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and toast them in a toaster oven until fragrant and golden, about 5-8 minutes. If you don't have a toaster oven, toast in a regular oven or a dry pan over medium heat. Set aside to cool then roughly chop and set aside ⅓ cup of the walnuts then roughly chop the remaining ¼ cup and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously with salt. Cook the broccolini for 2-3 minutes just until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool and drain again. Chop the broccolini.
- Add the garlic to a food processor and mince. Add the ⅓ cup walnuts and pulse until fine, scraping the walnuts from the edges of the bowl. Add the broccolini with the lemon juice, crushed red pepper and kosher salt and process until fine. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. Scrape down the bowl and add the Parmesan cheese, then season with more salt as desired.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook the linguine until al dente according to the package directions. Drain the noodles and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the linguine to a bowl and stir in the pesto. Add ¼ cup of pasta water and toss to coat, adding more pasta water to desired consistency. Toss in the ¼ cup of the reserved toasted walnuts. Taste for seasoning and garnish with Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley or additional blanched broccolini florets if desired.
Enjoy your seasonal eats!
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