Mint and Walnut Pesto

In Italy, families are often much larger than just your blood relatives. Aunties (zie) and uncles (zii) aren’t just your parent’s siblings. They are also your parent’s friends, and the godparents of your siblings. As a child I thought everyone was a blood relative till I was old enough to realise that Aunty and Uncle is said as a sign of respect to those adults close to your family.

It is wonderful celebrating the relationships that are close to your family by referring to them as “zii”. These people are immediately more strongly connected to your family and remain so for many many years.

My mum and dad are one of 4 and one of 7 respectively, so there are many cousins (first, second and now third cousins) across the globe that we don’t often get to see. As the youngest cousin in one family and the second youngest in the other, almost everyone is now partnered off or married (not to mention the children!), and it is lovely to see the famiglia continue to grow.

In Rome last year, my Australian siblings and I had dinner with some of our Italian cousins. It was the first time in a very long time that I had seen them and there was a raft of second cousins I had never met – possibly the most handsome group of young boys I had ever seen! Both Scotty and my brother’s wife didn’t speak much Italian (read very little) so after much translating back and forth many wonderful disjointed conversations were had – but the conversations weren’t lacking in warmth.

This pesto recipe came about from a conversation we had at our Roman dinner with my cousin Stephania’s husband. We were talking about this blog (because it seems the whole family is keeping a close eye on it) and got onto food from the region where he was born. This mint and walnut pesto is a specialty of his area and is something his mother makes often. After he talked through what went into it I knew I would be making it the moment we flew home to Sydney.

In truth, it is not at all as ‘minty’ as you think it is going to be. The olive oil and parmesan cuts through the mint and it is perfect stirred simply through pasta al dente with dried chilli. It’s more subtle than basil pesto but has just as much impact.

The key to its perfection is that you need to use the young mint shoots from the tips of the mint, not the older larger leaves which are much stronger.



  1. says

    I’ve had pesto made with mint before! It’s wonderful, and you’re right that it isn’t too minty (but it still has a great mint flavor). I’ve never made it, though. You’ve convinced me I need to! When the weather gets warm and our mint is going crazy I will. Really nice post & recipe — thanks.
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    • says

      Winston, your comments are always so heartfelt – Thank you!! Glad to hear that Chinese culture is the same as Italian with Aunties and Uncles – there are certainly many synergies between our cultures.

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