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Rocket, pea & cashew pesto

I’m not a huge fan of rocket in salads, but in this pesto the sweetness of the peas and the creaminess of the cashews and cheese really mellows it out, so it offers a lovely background pepperiness without being overpowering. My favourite thing about this pesto, apart from the speed with which it comes together and the delicious flavour, is how smug I feel watching my kids wolf it down. They would usually turn their noses up at spinach and rocket, but in this format they can’t seem to get enough.

If you don’t have rocket, you can swap in watercress for a similar peppery taste, and the peas aren’t an essential addition, but I always have them in the freezer and they add a little protein boost to the whole thing, which I find really helps with the aforementioned smugness.

The shape here is “corzetti della valpolcevera” which is a handmade shape from Genoa. Below it’s paired with bucatini, extra peas and wilted rocket.

Rocket, pea & cashew pesto

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 35g rocket
  • 50g spinach
  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 50g frozen peas (no need to defrost unless your blender is particularly feeble!)
  • 1 fat garlic clove (2 if your cloves are small)
  • 70g mature cheddar cheese
  • 40g extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g dried pasta
  • Grana padano or another hard cheese to serve

Directions

  1. In a food processor, or in a jug with a stick blender, combine the garlic, rocket, spinach, peas, cashews, cheddar and olive oil, and blitz to a puree. Season well with salt and black pepper.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water, until just al dente. Take a ladleful of the starchy pasta cooking water and use it to loosen the pesto, stirring it in until the pesto looks creamy.
  3. Drain the pasta and toss with the pesto. Taste and check the seasoning, then serve immediately, with cheese on top if desired.

If you want to bulk this out, it’s lovely with extra rocket stirred into the pasta at the end so that it wilts. Similarly, its lovely with extra peas – if you add them to the pasta cooking water for the last minute, then drain and stir into the pesto along with the pasta.