My belly is still recovering from overindulging in a delicious Thanksgiving feast. How about yours? Every year I am shocked to be hungry in the days after Thanksgiving. But here I am, back in the kitchen, ready for more.
Speaking of thanks, topping my list of things to be thankful for this year (and the list is long!) is... my mom is healthy and cancer-free after a very scary couple of months. I continue to be awed by her strength, attitude, grace, and resilience. When I brought her home after her second surgery last month, I told her I'd cook anything she craved. She wanted pesto. The sweet, funky, grocery store in her little town doesn't always stock pine nuts, but they did have some really good, roasted, organic pistachios from a farm nearby. I was inspired. I whipped up some chunky, rustic, and super flavorful pesto for my hungry mom. I was sure to pack in an extra dose of love in this meal knowing how essential every bite is to her healing process. She wolfed down her bowl of pistachio pesto pasta and continued to crave and eat bowls of pesto pasta for days. I was so honored to feed my mom.
I've been playing around with this recipe ever since. I tried adding some lemon zest and that didn't work. I substituted parsley for basil - success. I thought sweet and nutty Piave would be a great partner to the standard Parmesan and it was. I also ended up loving the addition of whole pistachios, leaves of parsley, and extra grated cheese to be scattered over the platted pesto pasta - the varied texture of the deconstructed pesto elements gives this classic a refreshing new life.
Like pretty much all of the recipes I share with you, this one is only as good as its ingredients. The pistachios need to be flavorful, the parsley fresh and perky, and the cheese delicious. I hope this recipe nourishes you as it did my mom.
INGREDIENTS (printable recipe)
- pasta of your liking
- 1/2 cup pistachios, roasted (or if raw follow my roasting suggestions below)
- 1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup finely grated Piave (if you cannot find Piave, you can just use Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (plus some extra for the table)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
Heat a large pot of pasta water while you make the pesto.
If you are using raw pistachios, do the following.... Heat a skillet over medium heat on the stove top. Toss in the raw pistachios and give them a shake occasionally to ensure even browning. It should take about 10 minutes to toast the pistachios this way.
Set pistachios aside to cool. They will firm up a bit as they cool to room temp.
For garnish later, set aside 1/4 cup of roasted whole pistachios, 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.
Get out your blender. Place 1 cup cooled pistachios in the blender and pulse until the nuts are very coarsely chopped. (I think this coarse texture really makes the dish). Add 3/4 cup parsley leaves and pulse again a few times to blend. Add just enough olive oil to make the mixture move - about 1/2 cup. Add garlic, 1 cup grated cheese, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Barely blend in order to preserve that coarse texture. Taste to see if you'd like additional salt or pepper. Add if needed.
Cook your pasta.
Scoop pesto onto piles of warm pasta. Scatter a few whole pistachios and parsley leaves over each plate. Pass the grated cheese, salt, pepper grinder, and even a little dish with extra pesto.
makes about 1 cup of pesto - enough dress 4-5 generous servings of pasta. (I have to tell you, I had some pesto leftover and slathered it onto roasted pork loin. Damn, it was good!)