Make this once, and I guarantee it will become a staple in your cooking repertoire, especially on a night when you need a fast meal, of when you’re entertaining and want to delight your guests without slaving over a hot stove all day.
While it originally comes from Sicily, I discovered this delightful pesto on the small island of Ischia, just off the coast of Naples. I enjoyed a plate of spaghetti with this sauce on it just before boarding my ferry back to the mainland, and I haven’t stopped dreaming of it since.
I really encourage you to play with this recipe and make it your own - you can add more or less of any ingredient to get just the right flavor and texture that most excites your tastebuds.
A couple tips:
This recipe makes a batch that is perfect for coating 1 pound of pasta. It’s equally great tossed on cooked vegetables. You can refrigerate any extra pesto and use within 3–5 days.
When buying pistachios, look for a raw, unsalted and shelled variety that ideally has very minimal skins remaining on the nuts. You can go through a process of blanching and removing the skins, but the pistachios will become mushier and the texture won’t be quite the same.
It’s entirely possible to make this using a large mortar and pestle instead of a food processor (that’s what the Romans did!) but be prepared to dedicate some time and muscle to the effort.
Choose a good (i.e., flavorful) olive oil for best results.
Prep time: <5 minutes | Makes 1 batch (for 1 lb. of pasta)
1¼ cups raw, unsalted and shelled pistachios (see note above)
1 clove of garlic
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (vegan option) or 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (traditional option)
1/2 teaspoon salt (use slightly less if using cheese)
Additional shelled pistachios and ground black pepper for serving (optional)
Place pistachios in a food processor bowl fitted with an S-blade. Pulse the machine until a coarse, uniform meal is achieved. Do not over-process the nuts or they will become pasty and you want this to have some texture. Transfer 3/4 of your ground pistachios to a medium mixing bowl.
Return the food processor bowl to its base and add the garlic clove. Process until the garlic is well-integrated (it’s fine if this portion gets a little pasty). Add the pistachio-garlic mixture to the bowl, along with all the other ingredients. Use a flexible spatula to stir everything really well. Taste and adjust any flavors as you wish. You can also add more oil for a “looser” pesto.
Toss finished pesto on pasta, cooked vegetables or anything else you wish. Garnish with extra pistachios and/or freshly ground black pepper if desired.