I’m sticking with my tomato theme this week — why limit a good thing, right? This Bon Appetit recipe for Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto uses cherry tomatoes as a base for a non-basil related pesto — alongside walnuts, anchovies (trust me), garlic and Parmesan. I say trust me on the anchovies because people tend to feel squeamish about these little filets of flavor. And you’re right, I wouldn’t recommend eating one on its own. But these guys are the ones responsible for the great, funky undertone in food classics like Caesar salad dressing. It works the same way fish sauce works in Thai food — used sparingly, and you won’t be able to say “that’s anchovy,” but it adds depth and character. Using the tomatoes for a base makes for a pesto that’s a bit sweeter than what you’re probably used to, but it’s totally delicious and rich and I couldn’t stop eating it.
And while the pesto doesn’t have basil involved, basil is added at the end of this dish in full leaf form, so you still get that great basil flavor, which cuts through the rest of the tastes beautifully.
- Rather than toast the walnuts in the oven, I did it on the stovetop in a dry skillet — easier and you don’t have to heat up the whole oven.
- When you buy basil, cut off the bottom of the sprigs and put it in a glass of water on your countertop. I can’t tell you how many bunches of basil I’ve had go bad in one day in the fridge despite my best efforts. This is the way to go — and if you get really fresh basil, it will last a long time — mine lasted two weeks!
- If you don’t have spaghetti, any type of pasta will work
Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto
- ⅔ cup walnuts
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Kosher salt
- 6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- ½ cup (packed) basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool. (see TW tip for another option)
Heat broiler. Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil, tossing once, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.
Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ oz. Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in ⅓ cup oil; process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.
Transfer pasta to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.
Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and black pepper and drizzle with oil.
Do Ahead: Pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.