Wild garlic leaves make a sauce – with olive oil, basil, parmesan and pine nuts – that is more delicate and interesting than the usual pesto. It lacks the bitter heat you can sometimes get when using cloves of garlic, and the colour is simply ravishing – a deep, shining emerald. I like to toast the pine nuts over a low heat – which I wouldn’t do for my usual pesto – and add a shot of lemon juice. During April and May this is the sauce I make for gnocchi, asparagus and so much more.
The sauce – thick, creamy and coarse with ground nuts and cheese – lasts in good colour for several days in the fridge, though you would do best to cover it, to halt its habit of pervading everything within reach. The verdant paste will sit happily while you decide whether to spread it on to hot toast and cover it with mozzarella (flash it under the grill until the cheese oozes) or add spoonfuls of it to baking peppers or tomatoes.
It’s easy to make pesto in a food processor, but I love to pound the leaves to a paste using a pestle and mortar
I made mine this week simply to thicken and enrich a spring vegetable stew of beans and peas. With pencil-thin leeks, flageolet and broad beans, a deep bowlful was sufficient, though I noticed allcomers went in for more…