I can honestly say that I only meant to make one pesto yesterday. Really. My goal was to recreate a simple, unique pesto that I have had in my mind for a few weeks since perusing photos of my trips to Sicily….a delightful pesto typically made from pistachios grown around Bronte, Sicily and their wonderfully sharp pecorino. So yesterday afternoon after a just spectacular spring day here on the east coast, I headed to the local farm market intent on making pasta with pistachio pesto for dinner. However, the fish at the market was incredibly fresh. Uh-oh. I couldn’t resist. So now with fresh fish in the basket, I needed a topping for this beauty..nothing too overpowering; just enough to highlight the freshness of my catch (pun intended :o)! Well, thought I, why not two pestos? One pistachio based for a side of pasta and one tomato based for my little fish friend? Ta-dah! I had a sparkle in my eye….a pesto festa was born!
First up-was the pistachio pesto. Friends used to make this one in Sicily and I hope I am remembering the ingredients correctly. They used almonds along with pistachios. A few Sicilian recipes online also used almonds so I went with my instincts on this one. You will need to blanch the almonds but the process is very quick and rather fun. Just take peeled almonds (the kind we typically find here in the markets) and toss them in boiling water for about 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and allow them to cool a tad. Then just take each almond and pinch – the skin comes right off. It actually is rather fun as you can aim the almonds at the bowl and see who gets the most almonds IN the bowl versus elsewhere. Quite fun for a Sunday afternoon! Next up was the pesto from Panelleria. I used a recipe from Academia Barilla which is shown below. I added a few notes to clarify the instructions a tad. You can use these pestos as a topping for fish, over pasta, spread on grilled crostini, on a pizza or as a spread on a sandwich – the sky is the limit.
I have to admit that I now have enough pesto to feed a crowd – so if you are in the neighborhood, just come on by for a taste!
Buon appetito, Michele
Pistachio Pesto (‘Pistu cu Pistacchiu’ in Sicilian)
6 ounces unsalted almonds, blanched and peeled
6 ounces unsalted pistachios, shelled
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup basil
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Blanch the almonds (ok this is easier than you think): Toss the shelled almonds in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Squeeze each almond between your fingers and the skin should easily slip off.
2. Toss the first 4 ingredients (almonds, pistachios, parsley, basil) into the food processor and blend. Add in the olive oil with the processor running. Place in a bowl and stir in the cheese and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste – adjust seasonings. Ready to go!
Pantelleria Pesto (‘Ammogghiu’ in Sicilian)
Adapted from: Academia Barilla website
1 pound tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
2 handfuls basil leaves
1 leaf of mint
1 sprig oregano
1 cup extra virgin olive oil