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More Nigella recipes

Wild Garlic Pesto

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Introduction

I am a relative newcomer to the joys of cooking with wild garlic, as until recently you could never find it in the shops and — as an indoorsy Londoner — I am not much given to long walks in the countryside, where it grows in profusion, mostly from March to June, its leaves looking rather like the foliage of Lily of The Valley. It’s vital you don’t confuse them, though, as the latter are poisonous. But, thankfully, wild garlic’s pungent scent is a crucial guide to its identity, though do check a manual or the internet for guidance if needed.

I wrote quite a bit in Cook, Eat, Repeat about wild garlic and the many ways I cook with it, and am very happy to be able to bring one of my favourites to the website now. It is incredibly easy, and fabulously versatile. For while spaghetti with wild garlic pesto is glorious, I also love this heady concoction as a dressing for a potato salad (add more oil and lemon juice as wished); tossed into some just-cooked, drained green beans, stirred into warm chick peas or cannellini beans; added to a toastie; dolloped onto tomatoes; stirred into soup (and I do recommend making the Pea and Pesto Soup with it). And that’s a very truncated list of possibilities! When my jar of this pesto is finished, I fill it up with olive oil and a spritz of lemon to use as a salad dressing, or to drizzle over fish.

I don’t add pine nuts to this, but if you would like to, by all means do. And for those who can’t get hold of wild garlic / ramps, you can make a more traditional pesto by replacing the wild garlic with basil, along with a clove of garlic.

One final thing: if you are foraging for wild garlic/ ramps, please do so sustainably, and be careful not to pull up the bulb.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I am a relative newcomer to the joys of cooking with wild garlic, as until recently you could never find it in the shops and — as an indoorsy Londoner — I am not much given to long walks in the countryside, where it grows in profusion, mostly from March to June, its leaves looking rather like the foliage of Lily of The Valley. It’s vital you don’t confuse them, though, as the latter are poisonous. But, thankfully, wild garlic’s pungent scent is a crucial guide to its identity, though do check a manual or the internet for guidance if needed.

I wrote quite a bit in Cook, Eat, Repeat about wild garlic and the many ways I cook with it, and am very happy to be able to bring one of my favourites to the website now. It is incredibly easy, and fabulously versatile. For while spaghetti with wild garlic pesto is glorious, I also love this heady concoction as a dressing for a potato salad (add more oil and lemon juice as wished); tossed into some just-cooked, drained green beans, stirred into warm chick peas or cannellini beans; added to a toastie; dolloped onto tomatoes; stirred into soup (and I do recommend making the Pea and Pesto Soup with it). And that’s a very truncated list of possibilities! When my jar of this pesto is finished, I fill it up with olive oil and a spritz of lemon to use as a salad dressing, or to drizzle over fish.

I don’t add pine nuts to this, but if you would like to, by all means do. And for those who can’t get hold of wild garlic / ramps, you can make a more traditional pesto by replacing the wild garlic with basil, along with a clove of garlic.

One final thing: if you are foraging for wild garlic/ ramps, please do so sustainably, and be careful not to pull up the bulb.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Ingredients

Makes: approx. 150ml / ⅔ cup

Metric Cups
  • 50 grams roughly chopped wild garlic (including tender stems)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (see Additional Info below)
  • 100 millilitres olive oil
  • A squeeze or two lemon juice (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 cups roughly chopped ramps (including tender stems)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (see Additional Info below)
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • A squeeze or two lemon juice (optional)
  • salt (to taste)

Method

  1. I make this with a bowl and a stick blender. I wouldn’t advise using a processor with such small amounts. Simply blitz the wild garlic, grated Parmesan and olive oil until you have a deep green mixture. You don’t have to blend it till completely smooth — it’s really up to you — but bear in mind it won’t have the nubbliness of regular pesto, since it doesn’t have the pine nuts in it.
  2. If wished, add a small squeeze of lemon juice, just enough to brighten and balance the flavours, then taste again and add more lemon juice (or indeed more Parmesan) as wished, and salt to taste. It may well not need salt; it rather depends on the cheese, and your taste!
  3. If you’re using this to dress pasta, stir in a little of the pasta-cooking liquid into it before tossing it all together, though I do recommend the addition of a bit, or even a lot, of butter as you do so, too.
  1. I make this with a bowl and a stick blender. I wouldn’t advise using a processor with such small amounts. Simply blitz the ramps, grated Parmesan and olive oil until you have a deep green mixture. You don’t have to blend it till completely smooth — it’s really up to you — but bear in mind it won’t have the nubbliness of regular pesto, since it doesn’t have the pine nuts in it.
  2. If wished, add a small squeeze of lemon juice, just enough to brighten and balance the flavours, then taste again and add more lemon juice (or indeed more Parmesan) as wished, and salt to taste. It may well not need salt; it rather depends on the cheese, and your taste!
  3. If you’re using this to dress pasta, stir in a little of the pasta-cooking liquid into it before tossing it all together, though I do recommend the addition of a bit, or even a lot, of butter as you do so, too.

Additional Information

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

STORE:
Put the pesto in a clean jar or resealable container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, making sure the surface is covered with a thin layer of oil as this will help to prevent the pesto from discolouring too quickly.

FREEZE:
The pesto can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze in an airtight container and thaw overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, freeze tablespoonfuls in ice cube trays and transfer to an airtight container once solid. Cubes will thaw in 1-2 hours in the fridge.

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

STORE:
Put the pesto in a clean jar or resealable container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, making sure the surface is covered with a thin layer of oil as this will help to prevent the pesto from discolouring too quickly.

FREEZE:
The pesto can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze in an airtight container and thaw overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, freeze tablespoonfuls in ice cube trays and transfer to an airtight container once solid. Cubes will thaw in 1-2 hours in the fridge.

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What 1 Other has said

  • I first picked wild garlic last year and made pesto but I added walnuts to mine as well as fresh basil. I froze some in pots but another way is to spread the pesto over a piece of baking parchment and freeze openly. This gives a large slab,, which you can break off and use as you wish to add to recipes.

    Posted by ellak on 29th April 2022
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