Walnut Basil Lemon Pesto on Pasta

Pasta with Walnut pesto

Pasta with Walnut pesto

Our dear friend Michael Murtha hosted a few friends to his home this weekend wherein he claimed he would prepare just a few appetizer items before we headed out for the evening.  Well to Michael a few appetizer items included baked shrimp in tomato sauce, paper thin prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella AND the most delicious orechiette with pistacio pesto sauce.  I must have had three portions. It was so delicious. I decided to recreate it, but I used walnuts instead and also changed the pasta to mezze penne.  I am writing this from work so I cannot post the photo I took last night, but suffice to say that it was delicious and I must give Michael his props for creating his dish and the inspired dish which resulted.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Walnut Pesto

1 clove of garlic
5 leaves of basil, torn
Salt and Pepper
2 cups of toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Somewhere between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup of “good” olive oil
1/4 cup of light cream
1/2 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino romano
1/2 cup of cooking water from the pasta (more or less)
1 pound of Pasta of your choice (I used Mezze Penne)
More parmeggiano reggiano (or pecorino) and pepper when you serve

Boil the pasta and reserve the 1/2 cup of cooking water.  In food processor place all the ingredients except the oil, cheese and cream.  Process until the walnuts are chopped finely and then drizzle the oil into the feed tube. You don’t want it too oily so once you see the walnuts moving freely in the pesto, it’s fine.  Process for a few seconds to emulsify.  Turn off processor and stir in cream and parmesan cheese.  Toss over the pasta adding some of the reserved cooking water as you see fit to make it as dry or wet as you like.  Reseason with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately passing more cheese around to your guests!  Serves 4-6.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup of crumbled bacon from 3-4 strips of bacon crisped up either in a frying pan or in a hot oven. The saltiness of the bacon works with the sweetness of the walnuts.