I've just finished reading a post by Rachel Roddy of rachel eats in which she recounts her discovery of walnut pesto. She describes it as "...a soft delicate nutty paste of walnuts, olive oil, butter and aged parmesan..." How delicious does that sound? I was surprised I'd never heard of this, but I could literally taste this combination in my head. Rachel paints a beautiful picture with her words, but it was more than that.
I realized that I have been using this combination for years. In Marcella's Italian Kitchen, the authority on Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan, recalls the platter of walnuts with slivers of tender, young Parmesan being passed around the table while waiting for the first course to arrive. This combination, she says, never seems to pall especially with a glass of crisp white wine.
It occurred to her to bind the two ingredients, butter and Parmesan, sheathing the walnut halves with the mixture. Brilliant. The perfect bite with an apertif before dinner. I like Prosecco with these.
Noci in Camicia by Marcella Hazan
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 pound shelled walnut halves
In a bowl combine all the ingredients, except for the walnuts, until they are thoroughly amalgamated into a smooth paste.
Scoop up some of the cheese and butter mixture with your fingertips and apply it to the walnuts, sheathing each half only partially, leaving about one-third exposed. Place on a dish without overlapping them and refrigerate until ready to serve--1-2hours.
N.B. If you don't have fresh basil, don't let that stop you from making these. They are fine without it. Also, I have sandwiched some of the butter mixture between two walnut halves if I could not find decent sized halves.