What’s cooking today: Broccoli and walnut pesto

What’s cooking today: Broccoli and walnut pesto
Tony Jackman’s broccoli and walnut pesto with tagliatelle, served in Mervyn Gers pasta bowls. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Pesto means pound or crush. It’s made with a mortar and pestle, traditionally, as the name suggests, but today it is often blended in a food processor. And it’s okay to do that. Just don’t tell your Italian friends.

Interestingly, the words pesto and pestle have the same Latin root. In Genoa, capital of Liguria, the home of pesto (in its traditional form of basil and garlic pounded with pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan and coarse salt), pestâ means “to pound” or crush. A pestle (from old English via old French from Latin) is the wooden item used to pound something in a mortar, which is traditionally made of marble or wood.

If, in ancient times, there had been food processors, we cannot know whether the people, after they had fled in terror from the mechanical beast and then tiptoed back hesitantly and wide-eyed, convinced it was the end of the world as they knew it, would not have grown to appreciate its charms as we have. So, to use modern equipment instead of a mortar and pestle is really not the end of the world.

It’s the tail end of the walnut season in the Eastern Cape and I bought some while they’re still available. They will soon be followed by pecans, one of our local Cradock crops. I’ve used them twice in the past week, for (another) roast chicken recipe (to follow soon), and in this pesto…


1 small head of broccoli

1 cup of raw walnuts

3 garlic cloves, minced or grated

⅓ cup (or more) of finely grated Parmesan

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt to taste

Black pepper to taste


Trim the stalks off the broccoli. You only need the florets.

Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 2 minutes, refresh under cold running water and drain.

Toast the walnuts lightly in a dry pan on a medium heat.

Chop, grate or mince the garlic.

I’m advising use of a food processor for this because it will be difficult to pound this amount of broccoli in a mortar. If you do, it will have to be in batches, which defeats the object of everything being pounded together.

Put the broccoli florets in the bowl of a food processor with the walnuts, coarse salt and garlic and process it while adding the olive oil in stages.

Transfer the contents to a bowl.

Stir in the grated Parmesan and season with pepper.

Toss through cooked, drained pasta and serve immediately. I used tagliatelle, which is ideal. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.

SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing. 


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