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Bucatini with Pistachio and Pine Nut Pesto

May 6, 2010

pistachio and pine nut pestoI feel the need apologize.  I’ve been posting so many pasta dishes lately that I fear you’ll get bored with me.  I’ll give you more variety, I promise.  For now, though, let’s talk about this pesto sauce because I think you’d like it.

As easy as it is to make, pesto hasn’t always been part of my regular rotation in the kitchen.  Honestly, it’s because until I learned how to prepare it to my liking, I’ve always regarded it as a so-so dish.  My indifferent attitude went away when I finally tasted a pesto sauce I enjoyed.  Ironically, it wasn’t in Italy, but in Portugal.  After gorging on delicious roast chicken with piri-piri sauce for a few days, I had to satisfy a pasta craving.  My husband and I found a lively Italian restaurant in the heart of Lisbon, not really expecting to be dazzled–the place showed all signs of being a tourist trap after all.  Boy, was I wrong.

I didn’t even order the pasta with pesto–my husband did.  But ever the gluttonous piggy that I am, I had to have a bite of his plate and I was hooked.  The pesto was served simply with spaghetti.  It was fresh, not too oily and most importantly, it was nutty.  The pesto sauces I’d had until then had always been bland but in this case, the pine nuts were the star of the show.  They held their own and balanced well with the pungent garlic, the sharp/salty parmigiano and the fresh basil.  When we returned home, I vowed to recreate the pesto sauce I learned to love.

Let’s fast forward to today.  It took some trial and error and consulting quite a few recipes but I finally got my pesto right.  Two things worked for me:  1)  Toast the nuts beforehand and 2) use a combination of pistachios and pine nuts.  Toasting the nuts brings out the flavor and the nuttiness of the…well…nuts.  By adding this step the nuts become more of an active participant in the dish.  In my previous attempts, they didn’t really contribute much to the final product.  Secondly, adding pistachios creates a fine balance of flavors that using pine nuts alone can’t match.  I learned later that in Sicily, their famed pistachios are the only way to make Pesto alla Siciliana.  Served on top of bucatini, a hollow spaghetti-like pasta, you’ve got an easy, healthy and satisfying dish.

I’m submitting this dish to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights.  Check it out.  It’s a weekly event showcasing other bloggers’ pasta specialties.  I’ve gotten many ideas here myself.

Bucatini with Pistachio and Pine Nut Pesto

Adapted from Biba Caggiano’s Trattoria Cooking

  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (I pack mine tightly)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (I always add about 2 tablespoons more)
  • 1/4 pine nuts (I always use about 1 – 2 tablespoons more nuts and use a 2:1 ratio pistachios to pine nuts)- toast in a dry pan for one or two minutes on medium heat.
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled (I use three large ones)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano
  • Juice of about half a lemon (my addition)

Put all the ingredients, except the cheese, in a food processor and process until smooth.  If you decide to add lemon–and I highly suggest it–add a tablespoon at a time until you are satisfied.  I usually add two tablespoons while processing and add more later.  Pour the sauce into a bowl and stir in the parmigiano.  Stir into your favorite pasta.  I like to drizzle extra olive oil and lemon to my plate.

This will be enough pesto for a pound of pasta with some leftover.  Cover the unused portion with plastic wrap and refrigerate (or freeze).  This will keep well for several days.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2010 11:25 PM

    I’ll never get bored of pasta, don’t worry!! This pasta dish looks awesome!!

  2. May 7, 2010 12:40 AM

    I love pesto! I’m one of those people who’ll bypass anything on the menu and order the pesto! I’ve never heard of using Pistachios and it’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  3. May 7, 2010 5:47 AM

    What a truly wonderful version. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  4. May 7, 2010 9:09 AM

    I just recently started liking pesto. I think using it with pasta is the best thing! I really like this recipe. It’s something that I could see myself making for my boyfriend. What do you think about Pesto Fettuccine with Chicken?

    It’s pretty good too. By the way, thanks for sharing this bucatini recipe. 🙂


    • May 7, 2010 12:48 PM

      Sophia, I think that pesto and chicken pair well together. That recipe sound good. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  5. May 7, 2010 10:44 AM

    What a delicious pasta dish. I just love anything with pistachios in it. You could say I’m a “pistachio nut” LOL, oh i kill me.
    Have a great weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  6. May 7, 2010 10:53 AM

    I just found your blog through Foodbuzz. I love the recipes I have seen so far. they seem really tasty but not super involved or hard. love it.
    I also have to say I am jealous that you live in San Fran. I have only been there once but fell in love and the food is sooooooo good there!!

    I am going back in June and I can’t wait 🙂

    • May 7, 2010 12:50 PM

      Steph, thanks so much for stopping by. If you ever try any of the recipes, please let me know how it turns out.

      Yes, SF is great. If you need help planning your trip here, just let me know!

  7. May 7, 2010 11:41 AM

    I actually really prefer pistachio pesto to pine nut…what a great dish! And there is no such thing as too much pasta in my opinion, so keep it coming.

  8. May 7, 2010 2:26 PM

    Lovely!! What a tasty combination!!

  9. May 7, 2010 5:28 PM

    What a great combination! I have a collection of pesto recipes, which I’ve just added this to and can’t wait to try it.

  10. May 7, 2010 7:28 PM

    Looks very tasty!

  11. May 10, 2010 12:19 AM

    I love pesto and the addition of pistachios is brilliant!

    • May 10, 2010 11:49 AM

      Lisa, I wish I could take credit, but I can’t. 🙂 I guess Sicilians always use pistachios for their pesto. They really do make the sauce better. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. May 11, 2010 4:57 PM

    Beautiful photo! I love the color the pesto gives to the dish.

  13. May 12, 2010 10:07 AM

    I am a big sucker for pasta dishes and this looks fantastic!

  14. July 18, 2011 9:42 AM

    This pesto looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  15. March 4, 2012 7:35 PM

    I love this! I’m very eh about pine nuts, feels like I’m eating a christmas tree. So I’m going to give your recipe a whirl this week!

  16. March 4, 2012 10:08 PM

    Your pesto sounds delicious – I had never thought to toast the nuts, but what a good idea!

    I love Biba! Have you ever eaten at her restaurant in Sacramento? The 10 layer Lasagne Verdi alla Bolognese is absolutely transcendent (only available on Thursdays & Fridays).


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