Pesto, Pesto.. Get Yer Fresh Pesto! Pasta Con Pesto Di Pistacchio - Brando Cucina Blog at - 301668

Brando Cucina

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.
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Pesto Ingredients
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Pesto with pistachios
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Pasta con Pesto di Pistacchio
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Apr. 26, 2013 12:35 pm
A wealth of information here about pistachios, It is Entertaining, trust me.
Apr. 26, 2013 12:52 pm
Please feed me!
Apr. 26, 2013 1:07 pm
Hmm! I've also had issues with my basil. Last year I potted mine and it worked finally. I did not know basil got bitter if overworked, that would explain why the last batch I tried didn't taste good and didn't make me want to try making my own. I thought I just didn't like basil. Great blog!
Apr. 26, 2013 1:16 pm
Last summer my basil did very good, i have some planted in a pot in the house, cause it is to cold and wet to plant outside. Can hardly wait till we can put in a garden. I have a herb garden on my front veranda in a nice box. Nice to be able to step out the front door and clip what you want.Your pictures are very nice.
Apr. 26, 2013 4:03 pm
Well who knew pistachios would go gangnam style
Apr. 26, 2013 4:03 pm
Hey Doc, when you comin' to California? If you're down by the San Jose area (Los Gatos) let me know
Apr. 26, 2013 4:07 pm
Hi Cat, if you allow the basil to heat up in the food processor from overmixing, it will begin to ferment and turn bitter. That's why I also seal it off from the air with wax paper until I'm ready to toss with pasta
Apr. 26, 2013 4:14 pm
manella I know what you mean about the garden. I just planted some red russian kale, Italian Nero, chioggia beets and peperoncino that I had started indoors. Besides the basil I already have arugula, Italian parsley, Italian green peppers, Oregano (several), Marjoram, thyme (several) and sage growing pretty well
Apr. 26, 2013 4:34 pm
Wow,i want your herb garden.Sounds like your planning a lot of cooking with fresh herbs.They are the best aren't they?
Apr. 26, 2013 5:48 pm
Oddly, I couldn't grow basil to save my life when I had ideal growing conditions and a healthy garden. Now I have mediocre sunlight and can only grow in pots on my terrace and my basil was gorgeous last year. I brought the pot inside and it has thrived all winter. In fact, I was just figuring how much I should cut it back and planning to make pesto. I don't care for pine nuts so I usually just omit them, but I will give the pistachios a try. Thanks for the info.
Apr. 27, 2013 6:27 am
I agree with Doc FEED ME! Here in Jersey there is something going on with the soil and impatients the flower (yes I know spelled wrong) will no longer grow here I need a new flower to hedge my front yard, any way I so hope it doesn't effect my basil I grow an entire row in the big garden as well as some in my kitchen herb garden. An old sail boat parked near the kitchen door.I can not live with out my basil.
Apr. 27, 2013 10:02 am
Thank you for this post. I've been making pesto with walnuts, and YES I TOO have trouble with basil, even the basil I buy in the store. It looks great but in a day or two if not used it's wilted and yucky. I just threw some out that wilted on me. I haven't tried growing it but I love your idea of how to grow it, you are an inspiration! Keep cooking! :-)
Apr. 27, 2013 12:46 pm
Chrissy don't throw it a way, take it out of water hang up side down and dry it.
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