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Hand-made pesto with watercress

watercressThere’s plenty of watercress about this month so why not use it to make this recipe for hand-made pesto with watercress. Nigel Slater’s recipe is simple to make and will be ultra-fresh having made it yourself. Delicious with pasta! Some facts about watercress:

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C.[5] Because it is relatively rich in Vitamin C, watercress was suggested (among other plants) by English military surgeon John Woodall (1570–1643) as a remedy for scurvy. In some regions, watercress is regarded as a weed, in other regions as an aquatic vegetable or herb. Watercress crops grown in the presence of manure can be a haven for parasites such as the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica

Serves 4.


  • 300-400g/10½-14oz dried pasta (enough for 4)
  • a handful pine kernels, plus extra to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • sea salt, to taste
  • a good handful fresh basil leaves
  • a bunch watercress leaves
  • a handful grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • olive oil
  • 2 large handfuls rocket leaves


Put the pasta on to cook in a pan of deep, heavily salted, boiling water.

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan – keep a close eye on them and keep moving them around the pan until they are pale golden-brown.

Peel the garlic and crush it with a large pinch of sea salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the basil leaves and continue crushing with the pestle.

Strip the watercress leaves from their stems and add to the basil, continuing to crush until you have a bright green purée.

Add the toasted pine kernels, crush, then add the grated parmesan. Slowly mix in enough olive oil to give a good thick-ish sauce.

When the pasta is cooked (about 9 minutes depending of the variety), drain lightly and tip back into the empty pan. Add the pesto and the rocket leaves, then toss gently to mix. Serve with extra parmesan and toasted pine kernels if you wish.

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