Winter Pesto

Recently I had the good fortune to spend some time with my daughter Ginger in London. Whilst staying with her I asked what she would like me to cook? “Comfort food”, came the reply “bolognese, meatballs, soup and … you know”. To eat now – with plenty left over for the freezer.

When I visit I also like to add a piece to her kitchen equipment.  This time it was a replacement blender, as hers was very old and leaking. She doesn’t have enough time to cook overly complicated things, but does like to eat healthy, dark leafy greens.

So, I decided to introduced her to one of my favourite recipes – great with pasta, great swirled into a hearty soup accompanied by toasted sourdough bread, and wonderful with grilled chicken… I could go on and on. By the way this recipe is not mine but one of Jamie Oliver’s. I have converted many people to it and my friend Bronwyn once suggested when serving it with pasta, sprinkle some toasted pine nuts, crispy lardons of pancetta and chilli flakes on top. Although not necessary it is a delicious addition.

Well here it is – we call it ‘Winter Pesto’ – and do make sure you use a very good extra-virgin olive oil, it really does enhance the flavour.

Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 large leek, trimmed, halved, washed, then cut into chunks
  • Or, 1 large brown onion, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large handfuls curly kale or cavolo nero, stalks removed and washed well
  • Approximately 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 500g dried pasta
  • 100g parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus extra for serving

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Once boiling, drop in the leek or onion and garlic cloves. Let them cook for 3 minutes then add your kale or cavolo nero and cook for another 31/2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon remove the vegetables to a blender, retaining the water in the pan. Add your olive oil and 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water and blend until you have a vivid green purée the same consistency as thick cream. Taste, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and put aside.

Bring the water back to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and add the sauce and the parmesan cheese. Toss and serve on a warm platter with some extra parmesan.