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.
PIMP MY RECIPE
*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.