Pesto is something really fine, fastly prepared and quite simple, therefore it is nearly impossible not to love this "sauce/paste"...
This "Walnut and ricotta pesto" is a bit different from the usual pestos we know (the traditional green "pesto alla genovese" or the "pesto rosso").
The pesto here is mainly made with ricotta cheese and instead of the regular pine nuts, walnuts are used in replacement. There is also slightly less oil needed and a bit of lemon zest is added, all this giving this pesto a fresh, nutty and flavorful summery taste.
It'll change from the classic pesto that you know and will be as successful at the table. It is simply sensational!!!
Michael Chiarello's recipe can be found on the site www.napastyle.com. As it is my habit to modify nearly every single recipe that I test, certain quantities and ingredients have been added or changed in order to please my own demanding palate...
Makes 2 cups pesto.
3/4 Cup Walnuts
6 Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil
4 Cloves garlic, minced
18 Large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
250g (1 1/2 Cup) Ricotta cheese
1/2 Lemon, zested (grated)
50ml Milk (or more to thin/optional)
4 Tbs Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350ºF).
2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Let cool, then chop coarsely.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over moderately high heat.
5. Add the garlic and sauté until light brown.
6. Scrape the garlic into a mortar or food processor and add the basil and nuts. Pound to a paste or process until finely chopped.
7. Add the ricotta, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and the lemon zest, milk, and pound or process until thoroughly blended.
8. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Instead of parmesan cheese, you can use pecorino romano cheese.
You can replace the walnuts by any other nut of your choice (hazelnuts, almonds, pecan, etc...) as long as they are roasted.
Use milk to thin the pesto especially if you are going to add the pesto to the hot pasta in the pan.
Just toss a generous amount of this pesto on the pasta of your choice, use it as a filling for your lasagna, canellonis or to stuff pasta shells...
(Pesto In Mortar -Pic by www.culinaryguildofwindsor.homestead.com)