Radish leaf pesto, smashed it!

Radish top pesto, the full jar that I didn’t eat for lunch

Buying fresh radish from my local market in Bra, northern Italy is so different from the experience offered in the mini-supermarket just a few hundred metres away. Market radishes are bright red, likely pulled from the ground within the past 24 hours, eaten with a healthy crunch and with a sweetness enough even to tempt me from my desk bowl of Gummi Bears.

Market radish also comes with tops attached, and not in a soul less vacuum sealed pack. They’re a perfect green to make pesto for a super quick, versatile and delicious sauce that enhances fish, chicken and pasta and brings alive a plate of boiled potatoes.

Radish leaves are softly textured, with a light peppery bite and give a vibrantly green pesto. Lighter in flavour than the traditional pesto made with basil leaves and pine nuts, it’s unlikely that you’ll eat this in the Italian region of Liguria, spiritual home of the basil pesto.

For this recipe used crushed hazelnuts in this pesto, giving the dish a Piemonte touch where thousands of hectares are planted with the nut trees to supply Ferrero insatiable demand for its Nutella paste and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Here’s the radish tops petso recipe I enjoyed at lunch today:

Wash the leaves with cold water with the radishes attached, as they wilt quickly once removed. Place other ingredients in processor, ready for the leaves and whizzing. A few pulses will give you a smooth paste ready to spread on your pasta, potatoes or fish. So many options.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

  • Handful of radish tops washed and dried (paper towels)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped, 3 if like
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 3 tbs hazelnuts, finely chopped (alternatives: macadamia, walnut; almond, pine)
  • 4 tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil plus extra if needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (added after whizzing to taste)
  • Roughly chopped parsley and black olives as garnish

Tips: Freeze in ice cube trays for quick meals in future. Keep in fridge for 2-3 days. Eat and enjoy!

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.