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Level up your weeknight meal game with this Sicilian style pistachio pesto pasta

by | 13 Apr 2024 | 0 comments

Prepare a quick and easy meal with Italian roots just by throwing in a few ingredients into a food processor or blender. This homemade pistachio pesto is all the sensation you need for a weeknight dinner with friends and family.

Prepare a quick and easy meal with Italian roots just by throwing in a few ingredients into a food processor or blender. This homemade pistachio pesto is all the sensation you need for a weeknight dinner with friends and family.

Nut butter doesn’t stop at peanuts

Although you can farm peanuts in Poland, we rarely use peanut butter in our cuisine. Or any nuts to be frank. For instance, many Polish people like chocolate with hazelnuts, but the hazelnut butter is still far behind peanut butter in terms of popularity. You can find them mostly as part of “bakalie”, a mix of dried fruit (usually prunes and raisins) and various nuts. While it can be eaten as a snack, it is also used for baked goods like sernik (Polish cheesecake), blok czekoladowy (chocolate block) and many of the cakes baked in fruitcake forms. They have their fans and haters and the fight between sernik with raisins vs. no raisins is a part of everlasting fight among Polish foodies, just how the mayonnaise war is.

Meanwhile, in different parts of the world, many cultures adopted nut butter into their cuisines and use it for more than just PB&J sandwich. I myself am a big fan of mixing peanut butter with various curry pastes to create a balanced mix of spiciness, nuttiness, and creaminess without using cream or butter used in our native cooking style. With the addition of chicken and some legumes like chickpeas or lentils, it is a nice and filling meal that also contains all the necessary nutritional values. This time, however, we look into a cuisine more common in Poland, that also shares some values with our cuisine. This pesto recipe is a short trip to Sicily.

We love roasted pistachios. Last time I was in the supermarket, I grabbed a big, discounted bag of those green, addictive little bastards. But when I opened it at home, I thought to myself — what more can I make out of this? I had a few other ingredients lying around and the thought of delicious pesto pasta came to my mind. So I started experimenting.

One thing I discovered is that using pistachios instead of pine nuts radically changes the flavour profile of the pasta. While the latter are mild and sweeter, the former have a distinct fruitiness to them. And that discovery made me even more existed for the new dish. I’m far from calling it a traditional pesto, but so far it is the best way of cooking with whole pistachios I found.

Make pistachio pesto at home

One of those core values shared by both Italian and Polish cuisine is that we love to meet with our families on every possible occasion. And that means cooking in bigger batches. This brings us to the reason so many housewives cooked simpler, but tasty dishes. Using fewer ingredients to simplify and ease on the kitchen work, but keeping the best quality of ingredients they could, made both Italian and Polish dishes of old that many of us know today, simple, but not plain.

And this pistachio pesto recipe is no different. After all, you can just cook pasta in a large pot of water, add the homemade pesto after draining most of the water and give it a minute to form a sauce. And you save yourself washing dishes, by making it a one-pot dish! Just remember to cook pasta al dente, because it will sit another minute with the sauce and it is still cooking!

To make the pesto, simply put all the ingredients into your blender, run it for a few minutes until the mix is smooth, scrape down the sides, taste and adjust the flavour with salt and pepper, pulse a few more times. If you are using grated Parmesan cheese, which I omitted for simplicity, you might need less salt. You can also skip fresh basil and add a tablespoon later during cooking. In the end, the most important thing is to make a delicious meal, not to be held back by what we don’t have.

The amount of ingredients provided in this recipe serve at least 4 people, but it all depends on the amount of sauce you use. You can store the pesto as is or mix it with the cream, and it will firm up a bit. Its consistency might remind some of you of yoghurt or gelato ice cream. I used 2 tablespoons with a bit of starchy pasta water to make a dinner for two. Doing it this way makes it easier to prepare it the next day. You just need to cook the pasta fresh for best results. Just remember to save some water before you drain the pasta. Toss to combine and it’s ready to serve.

If you feel like making a bigger batch of the sauce mix and storing it in the fridge, go ahead. This sauce recipe is easily scalable. Keep in mind that fresh garlic might not store well for long, but your pistachio and basil pesto sauce should hold up for a week minimum.

Pistachio pesto pasta recipe

pistachio pesto pasta recipe

Pistachio Pesto Pasta

Quick and easily scalable meal for a fancy dinner or weeknight dinner for two. This pistachio pesto pasta will rock your taste buds!
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4
Calories 700 kcal

Equipment

  • Immersion blender for pesto making
  • frying pan, on the larger side
  • small to medium pot
  • 1 1 litre (34 oz) ziplock bag or any available container for meat marinating

Ingredients
  

Pistachio Pesto Sauce

  • 120 g pistachios (65 g shelled) - roasted, unsalted
  • 100 g 30% cream
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • 1 handful mint leaves
  • 20 g olive oil - or any vegetable oil

Meat prep

  • 400 g pork - loin or tenderloin
  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 50 g red onion

Cooking phase

  • 400 g tagiatelle for 4 servings - modify as necessary
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • cocktail tomatoes and fresh basil leaves - for some variety

Instructions
 

Meat Preparation (Tenderloin)

  • Clean the tenderloin from larger fat chunks and any as much silver skin as possible. Cut across the grain to get bite-size slices.
  • Cut off the top of the onion and split it into quarters, living the root intact. With the onion prepared like this, start cutting from the top into slices.
  • Beat the egg and mix with the milk, herbs and, onion, salt and pepper. Add the meat and massage it. Put it into a container (or a ziplock bag) and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight for best results.

Pistachio Pesto Sauce

  • Add shelled pistachios, basil, garlic and oil into the blender and turn it into a paste. Add cream and blend for a second to get a smooth consistency.

Making Pasta

  • Get the water in the pot boiling, salt it and throw in some pasta. Should be done under 10 minutes, approx. 6 minutes for al dente. Store some of the pasta water for later.
  • Heat up a pan, throw in some netutral frying oil.
  • Remove excess marinade from the meat. If you are unsure, you can put it into a paper towel for best results.
  • Cook the meat in batches or if you have a pan large enough, all at once. Don't overcrowd the pan, as it will result in excess moisture and no browning.
  • When the last piece of meat is nice and golden brown, put it all into the pan and add the pesto with about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Let it cook for a minute to reduce the sauce.
  • Mix in the pasta, take of the heat immediately. Throw in chopped tomatoes and serve.
Keyword pasta, pesto, pistachios
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