Italians have long used walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the sauce. This foolproof recipe from my treasured dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, quips that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil-garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités". This Basil & Walnut Pesto is simply sensational with linguine as a satisfying entrée or small first course portion to begin an Italian themed dinner.
Basil & Walnut Pesto Linguine
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook
1 pound linguine or fettucine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese, optional
Pesto: (makes 2 cups)
2 cups fresh basil leaves thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmigiano
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Romano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the bowl of food processor and chop. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover with a thin film of olive oil on top, until ready to use; freezes well.
Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the linguine and boil until tender but firm. Stir in 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water and heavy cream into 1 cup of the pesto. Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the hot pot. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately in warm pasta bowls and garnish with additional pepper or cheese, if desired.