Recipe: Pasta con Pesto di Pistacchi (Pasta with Pistachio Pesto)

Written by Katie Parla on September 13, 2023

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto | Katie Parla

It’s still really freaking hot in Rome. While my weather app clearly shows the temperatures have dropped considerably since the hottest Roman summer on record, I simply cannot conjure the fortitude to turn on my gas stovetop to cook a multi-course meal. Enter pesto and its uncooked elements in its many forms–tomato-enriched sauce from Linosa, another from Trapani, and this pistachio pesto that conjures Sicily’s Mount Etna. The region around this dynamic, often-erupting volcano is known for its pistachios and wild herbs, and this recipe puts both front and center. Unlike pesto from Genova, pesto di pistachio doesn’t have a centuries-old tradition. But is has become a modern classic of sorts, so beloved that it’s served not just all around the island of Sicily, but on the mainland, too. The nuts are the star here in the absence of tomato, a staple in the other regional pesto recipes of Sicily, and the bright green hue is as alluring as Sicily itself. 

The sauce is a no-cook situation, so you’ll only have to boil water for the pasta. And as a bonus, this recipe is delicious year-round! Find more island pesto recipes in my book Food of the Italian Islands!

Makes 1½ cups pesto, to serve 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios 
  • 1 bunch basil leaves (about 1 packed cup)
  • 1 bunch mint leaves (about 1 packed cup) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely grated aged caciocavallo or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 pound dried or fresh pasta of your choice (I like spaghettoni)

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the pistachios, basil, mint, garlic, and a heavy pinch of salt. Pulse until chunky, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth.

Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Stir in the caciocavallo.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt until it tastes like a seasoned soup. Add the pasta and cook until al dente if using dry pasta, or cook until it floats and loses its raw flavor if using fresh pasta.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat. Add some of the reserved pasta water a spoonful at at time, as needed, to loosen the sauce. Season with salt to taste.

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