The dreaded pesto

This recipe is for my dad.

Dad is usually very adventurous about what he’ll eat, with one major exception: he cannot and will not abide pesto.

He was raised on a diet of spuds, cabbage and bacon that bored him to tears; so now he has an appetite for absolutely anything. He has been known to disgust friends and colleagues in posh French restaurants with a penchant for things that crawl on the sea bed (raw, of course). And in college he was affectionately known as Two-Dinners-Dillon. This is a man who likes his food.

This all worked out well for him, as my mother is an absolutely cracking cook. However, as a working mother of four, she has, on occasion been known to favour convenience over taste. So when the first incarnation of this strange concoction called pesto arrived on Quinnsworth’s shelves in the late 80s, it didn’t matter that it actually tasted like something an animal might try and bury. No, no in my mother’s eyes it was new, foreign and exciting. And more importantly, it could be poured over a pot of just cooked pasta, meaning dinner for six could be prepared in approximately 14 minutes. Dad hated it and it became known in our house as “The Dreaded Pesto”. Eventually he just boycotted it, which drove my mother mad. And to the best of my knowledge, pesto (fresh or otherwise) hasn’t darkened the door of their fridge ever since.

I, on the other hand love love love LOVE pesto. It can be used to dress up absolutely anything, from a plain old cheese sandwich, to salad dressings, to meats; and (my favourite) baked spuds. Limiting it to pasta is just an injustice. This recipe is lovely; it has quite a different taste to basil pesto, not as sweet and with a hint of smokiness from the walnuts. I think it’s what pesto would have tasted like if it had been invented by the Irish.

So this one’s for you Dad, one taste and I promise you’ll be hooked!

Walnut and parsley pesto

This recipe is from the very yummie Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen.


Makes 1 large jar

40 g (1½ oz) grated Parmesan cheese
25 g (1 oz) parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, pealed
50 g (1¾ oz) walnuts
250 ml extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt

This is so simple, even Dad will find it a cinch. Simply pop the cheese, parsley, garlic and nuts into a food processor and turn onto a low speed setting. Add the oil slowly, until an emulsion is formed. Once all the oil is added, season to taste, although you may find it salty enough.

Store in a sterilised jar and cover the top of the pesto with a layer of olive oil. It’ll keep like this in the fridge for about a week.

Spread on toast, chicken, cheese, pasta, potatoes, eat with a spoon, whatever really………..



You might also like:

Oregano, Pecorino and macadamia nut pesto

Tomato and chilli jam

Roasted red-pepper hummus


4 thoughts on “The dreaded pesto

  1. I ate a whole plate of Ligurian linguine (linguine drowned with basil pesto) when I was about 12 in Venice and for about 10 years after, could not stomach anything basil based, just the smell of it made me queasy. Though I did finally get over it, and now love it again, hopefully your dad has too!

    • Ops! Glad to hear you’re getting over your basil aversion, because it is all kinds of delicious. But if you don’t you could always use this version, it’s much milder than basil pesto. Unfortunately I think my Dad is a lost cause at this stage!

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