Prep time:

Cooking time: 23 minutes

Total time:

Serves: 4

100g rocket

50g walnuts (lightly toasted)

2tbsp olive oil

100g cream cheese

50g grated parmesan cheese (plus 20g more to serve)

2 crushed garlic cloves (to taste)

200g pasta (shapes such as penne, rigatoni and spirelli work well)

Jo Arnell salutes the best of seasonal, locally-sourced produce with effortlessly simple recipes that pack a fresh flavour punch.

Out on the plot, this month marks the end of what was once known as the hungry gap – the period after the last of the winter vegetables and before the new season’s crops. The first of the home-grown harvests start to arrive in the form of shoots, stems and leaves; delicious tender asparagus spears and pink-hued rhubarb (made less stringy by ‘forcing’ under a cloche) and an assortment of fast growing leafiness – spinach, rocket, land cress, young brassicas and loose-leaved lettuces. Before mass food production and the availability of year round unseasonal food we would have been especially grateful to see fresh new shoots. Today it makes ecological (and possibly biological) sense to eat locally grown food. Whether you grow your own or not, these welcome first pickings are worth being hungry for.

This is a variation on traditional pesto, substituting walnuts and rocket for basil and pine nuts and adding in a little cream cheese for a smooth, creamy taste.

  1. Combine rocket and walnuts and either use a food processor, pestle and mortar, or finely chop them until roughly blended.
  2. Mix in the other ingredients and combine thoroughly. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 12-13 minutes (or according to pack instructions).
  3. Drain, then mix in pesto – add in a little of the cooking water if you prefer a looser sauce, sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.

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