1/2 C. walnuts
1 pint fresh baby arugula, tightly packed
4 healthy garlic cloves
a lot of olive oil*
salt, black pepper, white pepper
1 large lemon
2 C. finely grated hard sharp cheese
Throw your walnuts dry into a frying pan and toast, stirring constantly, until they smell like toasted walnuts. Immediately remove the pan from the fire and the walnuts from the pan. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, rub the walnuts lightly between your hands to remove as much of the skin as will yield without a fight.
If your food processor is as small as mine, you now reduce the walnuts to particles that look like fine sand, then set them aside until after you’ve pulverized the arugula. This isn’t the fastest way to make pesto, but it does allow you to write recipes that call for an unspecified amount of olive oil.
Set a pot of water on to boil, peel the garlic cloves, grate the zest off the lemon, juice the lemon, and grate the cheese. I used a mixture of cheeses that was about two-thirds fresh Parmesan, and one-third Le Maréchal, which Patrick bought this past weekend because our grocery was giving out yummy free samples.
Stuff the arugula into the food processor along with the lemon zest, the garlic, and enough olive oil to get everything to cooperate. Turn the processor to “smite hem in pecys” and let ‘er rip.
Pause. Add the salt, pepper, and pepper. Process a bit to get them mixed in, and add more if needed. Meanwhile, if the water is boiling, add the pasta. As it happens, I used fusilli col buco, but almost any pasta would do.
The arugula has now been radically reduced in volume, so repatriate the walnuts. Add more olive oil. Process, adding yet more olive oil if necessary to keep things moving. When the texture is already right for pesto, add the lemon juice anyway, because the cheese is going to soak up liquid.
If the pasta is cooked, take it off the fire and drain it. Add the cheese to the sauce. It’s quite a lot of cheese—more than pesto would normally use. If you aren’t cooking for Patrick, you can add less. Process just until mixed, then readjust the seasonings again if necessary. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Eat happily.