Rocket and Toasted Brazil Nut Pesto

Pesto made the time-honoured way in a mortar and pestle. Both ‘pesto’ and ‘pestle’ come from the Latin pestare “to pound, to crush.” The best method is all in the name.

We’re having this tonight with tortellini, but it could just as well be brushed onto crostini and served with some fresh chopped tomato. This is a very nutty pesto that gets the best out of a Brazil nut. I decided to experiment with them in pesto after I made a simple salad with toasted Brazil nuts. Usually they’re not my favourite nut – bland and a bit starchy and oily – but sliced in four lengthwise, toasted, cooled and sprinkled on a salad, they have an excellent crunch to them. I toast the nuts in a small skillet, watching them constantly and tossing them until they are just browned. Next time you have a pile of them left over from your mixed nuts at a party, use them up on salad or in this pesto.

This pesto may be made traditionally in a mortar and pestle, or with a blender, but don’t overblend, because bruising the leaves is key to pesto’s flavour and appeal.


2 cloves garlic, chopped

sea salt to taste

3 big fistfuls of rocket (arugula)

1 fistful toasted Brazil nuts

1 fistful grated Parmesan

enough extra-virgin olive oil to lubricate the whole, but not so much that it makes the mixture slack and oily.


Start by pounding or whizzing the garlic, then add the nuts and a bit of the cheese. Then add the rest of the Parmesan and rocket bit by bit until it’s all smashed up nicely.


About timwaterman

I am a landscape architect, urbanist, writer, and lecturer based in London.

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