An Alternative Version of Classic Pesto
When you think of pesto, you're most likely thinking of Pesto Alla Genovese made with crushed garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. These are the ingredients that have been used since ancient Roman times originating in Genoa in northern Italy.
Today, home cooks all over the world are making their own variations of pesto using a variety of ingredients to work with what they are cooking. The word pesto comes from the Italian verb "pestare" meaning to pound or to crush, which is how pesto was traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle.
This variation uses a combination of spinach, walnuts, capers, cheese, a shallot-vinegar mixture and olive oil. It doesn't require a mortar & pestle but if you like your pesto with a smooth texture, give it a go.
We only used a dollop of pesto to serve on top of each pan fried salmon fillet, so there was a lot leftover. I'm thinking of making a penne pasta dish using the leftovers.
Spinach Walnut Pesto Recipe
- olive oil
- 4 ounces spinach washed and dried
- salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons shallot finely minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons shelled walnuts finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers finely chopped
- ⅔ cups grated Parmesan cheese
- Gather all the ingredients and prep as necessary.
- In a medium non-stick pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium heat until the oil is hot.
- Add the spinach, season with salt & pepper, and saute until the spinach wilts - about 2 - 3 minutes. STIR FREQUENTLY
- When done, transfer cooked spinach to a strainer and strain over the sink or into a bowl as much of the liquid as you can by pressing down on the spinach with a wooden or plastic serving spoon.
- Discard the liquid and transfer the spinach to a cutting board.
- Finely chop the drained spinach and transfer to a bowl.
- Add 4 tablespoons of the minced shallot plus the vinegar to the bowl.
- Add the walnuts, capers and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and stir to combine.
- Season with salt & pepper to taste.
- The goal is to make a rough paste by adding a little olive oil at a time until you have a nice consistency of pesto. You may even want to try using a mortar & pestle or food processor to create an even finer texture.
What to Do With Leftover Spinach Walnut Pesto?
When we made this pesto to serve with a salmon dish, there were leftovers. A couple of nights later I was looking for a quick & easy meal so I cooked some bucatini pasta, saved a little of the pasta water before draining, plated the pasta, added a little of the pasta water and then a dollop of spinach walnut pesto and stirred to combine.
I finished the dish with a shake of hot pepper flakes. Delicious!