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meatless monday: marjoram pesto

May 17, 2010

On its own, I think marjoram smells more like something I would want to use to scent a room.  For me, it’s like the potpourri of the herb family.  So, I was a bit reluctant to use it here, thinking that it was going to taste like I was eating the candle section of Pier 1.  I should’ve known better than to doubt Heidi.  The dish was balanced, lovely and the perfect dinner for what turned out to be the last time we were ever going to see the sun in Switzerland.

Seriously though, I just spent a week in Sydney where they were enjoying a winter nicer than our May.  I’m not entirely sure we can blame the volcano, but I think I will since it seems to be what all the cool kids are doing these days.

Dear sun,

We miss you, please come back.

Best regards,


marjoram pesto with parsley and pounded walnuts
from 101 cookbooks


  • 3/4 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled, germ removed if garlic sprouted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2/3 cup / 5oz / 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons marjoram, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup / 1 oz / 30 g pecorino Romano, finely grated
  • salt & pepper


  1. Start a large pot of water to boil for pasta.
  2. While you wait, toast walnuts in a 350F / 175C degree oven until they are golden, 8-10 minutes. While still warm, wrap them in a clean dish towel and rub off the skins.  This was more difficult than I anticipated and very much had a “that’s close enough approach”, the results were still delicious.
  3. Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, and pound to a fine paste.
  4. Add the walnuts to the mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. (You can also do this in a food processor.)
  5. Transfer the nut mixture to a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, then add most of the herbs.
  6. Stir in the pecorino, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  KC note: Make sure to go with a fine grate for the pecorino.  I started with coarse which was too chunky for this.  Finely grated is the way to go.
  7. Salt the pasta water generously, and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and reserve a big cup of the pasta water (important).
  8. Toss the walnut pesto with the pasta, and thin out the sauce with the reserved water as necessary (I ended up using about a half cup).
  9. Serve topped with a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.

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