Pesto, pesto.. get yer fresh pesto! Pasta con Pesto di Pistacchio
Apr. 26, 2013 11:58 am
Updated: Apr. 27, 2013 12:46 pm
Finally! I finally got my basil plants to grow after way too much turmoil. I don't know why basil is so hard for me, but it is. While my friends plants grow like weeds, mine tended to peter out and wilt. My first several tries this year yielded plants
that died because something was attacking them, problem is I don't know what. I suspect it is something in the soil which I have heavily supplemented with compost. At the ground level, the plant stalks would go brown and shrivel up thereby killing the rest
of the plant. So while they all started out healthy and growing well, eventually they'd get cut off at the base and die. Giving it one last try, I got some of those large fiber biodegradable pots and filled them with fresh dirt and planted the basil in them.
Then I ripped off the bottoms and transplanted them into my garden. Voila! healthy vibrant basil plants and good enough to eek out a first harvest!
Ok, on to the first fresh pesto of the year. I made the dish Sicilian style, that is with pistachios rather than pine nuts and peccorino rather than parmesan. First a word about the pistachios: in Sicily the pistachios, while grown all over the island predominately
come from the Mount Etna area and the best are from Bronte. The trees grow on the side of the mountain (volcano) in the volcanic soil and yield up a crop once every two years. The Bronte pistachios are soft and creamy on the inside as opposed to the delicious
but hard and nutty flavored nuts you find here. I happen to be lucky in that I have a stock of Bronte pistachios from a recent trip to Sicily. The difference is striking. While you can make the same dish with local storebought pistachios, I suggest mixing
in 1/3 pine nuts to duplicate the flavor of this prep.
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
scant 1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
2 cloves garlic chopped fine or minced
1/2 cup fresh grated pecorino
generous pinch of sea salt
1 lb box of spaghetti
2 TBSP unsalted butter (optional, see note below)
Technically, pesto should be made with a mortar and pestle as "pesto" derives from
pestare which means to pound or grind. But I'm a Cuisinart guy so mine comes from the food processor. Wash the basil and let the leaves soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes then spin dry in a salad spinner. Toast
the pistachio nuts over medium heat in a dry pan or bake at 350 in an oven for 8 minutes. If you are mixing in pine nuts, toast them too. Place the basil, most of the nuts (reserve some), the garlic, oil and salt into the food processor and pulse until you
have a creamy blend, but only as long as you have to so as not to turn the basil bitter from overworking. Remove the pesto mix to a bowl and fold in the grated pecorino by hand using a wooden spoon. Take the remaining pistachio nuts that you have reserved,
coarse grind in a mortar and pestle and then fold them into the pesto for added texture. Note: If you want to make pesto Genoese style, then fold in 2 TBSP of unsalted butter that has warmed up to room temperature after you have mixed in the grated cheese
and just before you are going to toss the pasta with the pesto. Press a section of waxed paper into the pesto to seal off air exposure until you are ready to toss.
Boil up the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water and then add back into the pot. Toss with most of the pesto reserving a little for plating. Add some of the pasta water if you need to make a sauce but you probably
have enough oil. Plate on individual servings and top with a small amount of the pesto and grated pecorino.
Pesto with pistachios
Pasta con Pesto di Pistacchio