Wild Garlic Pesto

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Wild Garlic Pesto

Moving on from admin, we have wild garlic pesto! The origins have been traced back to ancient Romans, who cooked with a paste called moretum, consisting of cheese, garlic, and herbs… but traditional pesto as we know it is pesto alla genovese, named after the northern region of Italy where it originated. It’s a blend of crushed garlic, fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Fiore Sardo—but this will be a variation.

Parmigiano Reggiano Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild garlic (also known as ramsons) has been popping up everywhere and works well in the place of garlic cloves, resulting in a milder and less herb-y pesto than those using fragrant basil. Allium ursinum, with its broad leaves and delicate white flowers, gets its Latin name from the bears that love to dig around for the bulbs. Unlike brown bears, humans usually prize wild garlic for its leaves, which are used either raw or cooked.

Wild Garlic Pesto

A few geeky notes on kitchen methodology that you may find useful for pesto and beyond:
The Genoese word ‘pestâ’ means to pound, referencing the fact that pesto was traditionally made with a mortar and pestle (there’s that word root again). You can use an electric food processor instead, which is ironically more accessible these days in Western households.
Blanching—that’s when vegetables are submerged in salted boiling water for a few short minutes before shocking in ice water to halt the cooking process—has many culinary uses, but in the case of this pesto it’ll be to preserve colour and eliminate bitterness. This brief boiling will break cell walls and release gases inside the plant that refract light, allowing chlorophyll’s natural greenness to become more perceptible. Salted water is denser, which helps to prevent nutrients from seeping out of the vegetables as they boil; this keeps the magnesium in chlorophyll, which also helps maintain the green colour. Furthermore, enzymes that cause browning are denatured (turned off) during this heating process, so your pesto will maintain its bright green colour even after sitting in the refrigerator for a few days. The naturally occurring acids causing bitterness in some vegetables can similarly be boiled off with a quick blanch. Just don’t boil for too long, lest all these benefits be rapidly lost.

Phew. Enjoy the pesto, and smugly appreciate the secret of its bright green colour with every bite.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

  • 1 bunch wild garlic
  • 40g parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
  • small handful of pine nuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Wash the garlic and remove any thick stems. Blanch the leaves in salted boiling water for about 10 seconds, then shock in ice water to stop the cooking and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Pound (or process, in the absence of mortar & pestle) the nuts until you have a thick paste, then add the leaves and sea salt to continue pounding. Finally, add cheese while streaming in the olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. Don’t worry too much about the exact amount of ingredients; adjust them to your taste and it’s hard to go wrong with these good simple ingredients.
Store in an air-tight jar and top with olive oil to keep fresh in the refrigerator for about a week to use with various pastas and dishes.

Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta

Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta

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17 Responses to Wild Garlic Pesto

  1. What a lovely adaptation of pesto! I love the use of wild garlic in this – sounds delicious! Pesto is the perfect summer dish, in my opinion!

  2. Sissi says:

    I am also very fond of wild garlic and pesto is one of most frequent ways I use it. I like your blanching tip a lot. I have never done it, but will try next time. I have noticed that when I mix the leaves for too long they become slightly bitter… Otherwise I love your blog! Beautiful photos and very interesting recipes. Thank you for visiting mine and leaving a kind comment!

    • wandercrush says:

      Thanks, Sissi! Yep, blanching should nix the bitterness. Glad to have met another fellow blogger :) I’ve just started in the past few months, so it’s exciting to get to know all the others out there.

  3. Hi Irina! Thank you for emailing me with your new subscription options. I will be receiving your post via RSS from now on. Wonderful post on garlic pesto here. I just made a version of this last night! :)

  4. woow… i have lots of wild garlic in my backyard… maybe i should try to use it! :D

    • wandercrush says:

      Oh man, you definitely should take advantage of your backyard stash. I’m so envious! Pesto would be a good way to use a big batch, but you can always throw some raw leaves into a salad or omelette.

  5. Wow, that pasta looks mouth-watering! I haven’t used wild garlic in cooking before. Thank you for opening my eyes. I love using wild ingredients and will definitely look for wild garlic sold in Sunday markets.

    • wandercrush says:

      Aw I’m so happy to hear this, Dolly! It’s really versatile as well, so just throw it into an omelette or salad if you don’t have time for pesto-making.

  6. Pingback: Asparagus Quiche with Mushrooms & Sun-dried Tomatoes // .wandercrush.

  7. Helena says:

    Sadly I can hardly get my hands on wild garlic pesto here… I feel the very same about it as you did about rhubarb ! I’m waiting for the day when I’ll be able to make my own garlic pesto too, but for now I have to content myself with bottled one…

    • wandercrush says:

      Aw don’t worry, you’ll stumble upon some one day and it’ll be that much more gratifying when you finally do. I waited many years for the rhubarb, but it made it even better in the end—mentally, emotionally, and physically satisfying! You may even find some sooner than you think if you read about how to identify it in the wild; many times, these forageable things are right under our noses.

  8. Helena says:

    Oh,sorry, I meant “wild garlic” not “wild garlic pesto” in the first line… I should read over my comments before posting them !

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