Pistachio Pesto


The word pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare which means to pound or crush.  I heartily recommend making pesto using a mortar and pestle rather than using a food processor or blender.  By pounding herbs or garlic with a mortar and pestle, you release more of the essential oils.  Their flavors will be more intensified.  The same is true for nuts.  You want those fragrant oils to come through.  The oils released from Sicilian pistachios from Bronte or fresh California pistachios are a little more aromatic than regular varieties found in grocery stores.

Sicilian pistachio pesto does not usually contain garlic.  I included garlic for those of you that absolutely can’t conceive of eating pesto without garlic.  This recipe is good either way.  It can be served with pasta or meats.

(Pesto di Pistacchi)

Difficulty Rating: Easy

1 cup shelled, unsalted, raw pistachios
1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, optional
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
8 peppercorns
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Special Equipment Needed:  A medium or large mortar and pestle

1. REMOVE PISTACHO SKINS:  Place the pistachio nuts on a damp dish towel and vigorously rub off as much of the skins as possible.  Place the pistachios in a small bowl.

2. TOAST PINE NUTS:  Place the pine nuts in a small skillet over low heat.  Cook stirring constantly for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly toasted.  Pine nuts tend to burn easily so you need to watch them carefully.

3. GRIND THE NUTS:  Put the pistachios and pine nuts in a large mortar and pound the nuts until fine and almost paste-like.  Some small bits of nuts will still be visible.  If you don’t have a large enough mortar, you can pound the nuts in batches.  Transfer the nuts into a small bowl.  Wipe out the mortar.

4. CRUSH REMAINING INGREDIENTS AND COMBINE:  Place the basil, garlic (if using), salt, and peppercorns into the mortar and pound into a paste.  Stir in the pistachio mixture and oil and mix until smooth.

Refrigerate the pesto in a glass jar or air-tight container for 2 to 3 days or freeze.

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