Ask Italians the correct way to cook bolognese, ragu, gnocchi or polenta and you'll get a different answer from all of them. And they're all correct! Ingredients and methods vary between regions, creating unique geographical and cultural signatures on the food.
Pesto is no exception. Recently, a charming Sicilian customer was delighted with our vibrant and fresh Australian grown Pistachios, and told me about his family's pesto recipe.
In the south, he said, it's common to have Pesto made from pistachios, basil, olive oil, mint and parmesan. He was insistent on 3 things:
1. Unlike the classic pine nut pesto that most of us are familiar with, which uses just a handful of nuts to a whole bunch of basil. The pistachio version should be all about the pistachios, with the rest of the ingredients playing second fiddle. The mixture should be ⅔ pistachios.
2. Don't grind it finely. You should be able to see some pistachio pieces at the end.
3. "No garlic!"
Here is my attempt at his beloved Pistachio Pesto. It was absolutely delicious. Hope you all enjoy it!
Pasta alla Trapanese, aka Pistachio Pesto
400 g pasta of choice
200g raw pistachios
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
40 g Parmesan or Pecorino grated
salt for pasta and to season
pepper to season
½ bunch basil, leaves only
Handful mint leaves
Put a large pot of water onto a boil for the pasta. Salt generously. "Pasta water should taste like the sea".
Put the pistachios in a blender or food processor, add the grated cheese, lemon juice, herbs and half of the olive oil.
As you start to blend/pulse add the rest of the olive oil until you get a dense pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta al dente. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
Add some of the pasta cooking water to the pesto to make it a little more liquidy and creamier. This step is crucial. It really elevates the pesto to something special.
Then add the pistachio pesto to the pasta and mix together well.
Serve immediately with extra grated cheese as required.
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*Fried breadcrumbs are a fabulous addition. Tear 2-3 slices of stale bread into pieces and blitz briefly in the food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Then pan fry them gently in a low to medium pan with a splash of olive oil until just crunchy. Use as garnish before serving.
*If pesto without garlic just feels wrong to you, please add a clove. I recommend sautéing it low and slow first to mellow the flavour.
*Mr Sicilian says that almonds are often used in addition to or in place of pistachios. Roasted gives a better texture
*I love hazelnut pesto. It brings a really unique, modern flavour to the classic simplicity of pesto. Use raw or roasted hazelnuts. No need to remove skin, as it's a rustic dish.
This anytime recipe is a great one to have in your arsenal, as most of the ingredients can be found in the pantry. Whether it's served as a quick midweek dinner or as an accompaniment to a fancier feast, I think you'll find that it's a handy dish to keep up your sleeve. Winner winner, midweek dinner!
Serves 3-4 as a main and up to 6 as a side.
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups water
1 tsp veg stock powder
2 tsp dried currants
1 cup wholemeal couscous
Handful chopped fresh mint or coriander
3-4 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, dry-fry the almonds for 1 min over a medium heat until they just start to turn golden. Tip the almonds immediately into a bowl and set aside. Put the saucepan back on the stove.
Heat the oil and butter* in the saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add couscous and stir for 1 minute. Add the water and stock powder, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the currants, cover pan with a lid, remove the pan from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes with lid on so the currants can plump and the couscous can absorb all the stock.
Remove the lid. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the fresh herbs, dates, lemon juice and almonds and fold them into the couscous. Serve immediately or pop in the fridge to enjoy as a salad the next day.
*Why use a combination of butter and oil?
When you want that unbeatable, fried buttery taste but want to cook at higher temps, adding a glug of oil will help prevent burning, as oil has a higher smoke point!
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*Add some cooked chickpeas or lentils at the end of cooking time
* Try adding a tsp or 2 of our Falafel Mix to rev up the flavour
* Toppings - sprinkle on some Dukkah just before serving. Or, for a truly top-shelf finish, crumble some of our Rose, Pistachio and Orange Buckinis over the top - so good!
500g Pasta of choice.
(I've used Wholemeal Penne this time, but Spaghetti, Spirals or any pasta works well)
¼ cup Olive oil
2-3 tsp Italian Herbs
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tbs Balsamic or White Wine Vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 tsp Chilli Flakes
1-2 tbs Nutritional Yeast
Salt and Pepper to taste
4-6 Anchovy Fillets, broken up
Parmesan to serve
When pasta is al dente, reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain pasta and add to serving bowl. Add a splash of cooking water. With 2 forks, tumble the pasta and sauce together so the pasta is well coated. Add more olive oil and cooking water if necessary.
Top with a generous grind of pepper, and parmesan if you wish.
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Got any tasty tidbits lurking in the fridge or pantry? Semi dried tomatoes, truffle oil, pesto, olives, capers, a tin of tuna… go for it!