Monday, April 5, 2010

Walnut Pesto, Basil Pesto

 

My mom used to always tell me to eat more walnuts because they are so rich in omega-3s. I would occasionally toss walnuts into my salad but never really liked them. That is until I had fresh walnuts... I was captivated by the delicate sweetness laced with a slightly tannic bitterness. So now I try to incorporate walnuts into more dishes.

On a side note, the high polyunsaturated fat content of walnuts makes them highly perishable, so they get rancid quickly. You can read more about how to properly select and store walnuts here.

Anyway, I really like the wild mushroom ravioli at Fox & Obel. There's no cheese in the stuffing so the wild mushroom flavor is quite pronounced and requires a delicate and not so overpowering sauce.


I previously tossed the ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce with toasted walnuts, and it was a beautiful combination. I also thought it was fantastic with a simple white wine sauce. Saute garlic, shallot, and fresh thyme in unsalted butter until fragrant, season with salt and pepper, add a glug or two of dry white wine and reduce, finishing with just a touch of cream. It is light but packed with flavor and lets the mushrooms stand out. I loved it!

This time I decided to try the wild mushroom ravioli with a walnut pesto. It was tasty and complemented the mushrooms quite well, but I found the walnut pesto to be a bit too rich for Spring. It would be a perfect hearty meal for a cold dreary day. Plus I have to admit... when it comes to pesto, basil pesto (garlicky not lemony) is still my absolute favorite.


Wild Mushroom ravioli with Walnut Pesto
1 lb wild mushroom ravioli
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 cup walnut pesto, see below

Boil water for pasta. Cook ravioli as directed and drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Pour walnut pesto into skillet and stir in heavy cream. Quickly add ravioli and toss to coat well. If needed, add some of the reserved liquid. Remove from heat. Serve immediately, garnishing with walnuts.

Walnut Pesto
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and cooled
optional 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, coarsely grind walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic. Continue to pulse while pouring the olive oil into the blender until fully incorporated and smooth. Add cheese and puree for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.  If you are not using all of the walnut pesto, you can refrigerate or freeze it in an air tight container with a thin layer of oil on top. You can use the walnut pesto as you would any other pesto- on crostini, pasta, pizza, or meat/fish. Makes about 1 cup.

Basil Pesto
1/8 cup walnuts
1/8 cup pine nuts
4 cloves of garlic (I told you, I like mine garlicky)
2 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

In a blender, coarsely grind walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic. Add basil. Pulse until finely chopped. Continue to pulse while pouring the olive oil into the blender until fully incorporated and smooth. Add cheese and puree for a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in refrigerator or freezer in an air tight container with a thin layer of oil on top.

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