Walnuts, ready for pesto

Broccoli walnut pesto

I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of pesto recipes lately, some going really quite a way off piste compared to a humble paste of garlic, basil, pine nuts, and all the oil and parmesan your doctor will let you pack yourself with. One in particular caught my eye, which was the cauliflower and almond pesto in the Smitten Kitchen book.

Smitten Kitchen is great, and if you don’t read the blog, you totally should.

Broccoli walnut pesto

I tried the cauliflower version, and although my stick blender wasn’t quite up to it, it was tasty as all hell. And it got me thinking. I love pesto, I love brassicas, cauliflower’s good and all, but what about motherfucking broccoli? Yeah, that’s right – broccoli. Bring it on.

(updated 01/09/15)

Ahem. Sorry. Anyway.

Broccoli is great, bluster aside. It’s packed with umami, vaguely good for you, and carries savoury flavours well. This recipe is a bit of an experiment, but the broccoli/walnut/sherry combination kick a little bit of arse.

This made about 400g, which is a fair few portions.

Walnuts, ready for pestoIngredients:

  • A small to medium head of broccoli
  • A handful of walnuts, about 60g
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Chilli flakes or a small mild chilli – not much
  • Parmesan, lots, 50g at least
  • Dry sherry, 2 tbsp. I used a standard Fino
  • Olive oil, about 100ml
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, say 6g
  • Salt

Also some pasta to tip it over.


tl;dr: make pesto with the ingredients. 

Break the broccoli up into florets, and steam it for a few minutes until soft, but not actually mushy.

Walnut pesto baseBlitz the non-broccoli ingredients in a blender until they’re a rough paste. You can also do this in a pestle and mortar, if you want it a bit more grainy, and skipped the gym this evening. If you’re going to do that (don’t) then start with the dry ingredients and work in the liquid later.

When the broccoli is soft, stop steaming and let it cool.

IMG_5302Attack the broccoli with a potato masher. Get it to a rough mush, but by no means a paste. Then mix in the remaining actual paste, along with the sherry, working it to a reasonably consistent texture. Some of the broccoli stalk may not mash cleanly, but don’t worry too much about that.

Cook your pasta, drain it, and toss the pesto through it over a low heat. It doesn’t need to cook per-se, but you’ll want it warmed. A little ham makes a nice addition here, but then, when doesn’t it.

The flavour is very savoury and nutty. That would be the nuts, obviously. You might want to tinker with the quantities. But I think it’s part of the point, and it’s why I went with sherry.

Heck, if you really want to push the nutty notes you could use an amontillado, and even skip the broccoli, but I do think you’d miss it for texture and body.

Like the Smitten Kitchen version, it makes a good dip, too. Well, inasmuch as that it was satisfying to eat with a spoon.

It’s a work in progress (I’m tempted to swap the chili for black pepper), but if you try it, let me know how you get on.

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