Pistachio Pesto

Purists make pesto by hand using a mortar and pestle. Pesto is derived from the Latin word “pesta, which means “to pound, to crush.” They say that hand-pounding pesto keeps the flavors distinct and it releases more of the oil from the basil, so the pesto is more flavorful.

My husband and I have raced to see who could make pesto faster- me, with a mortar and pestle; he with a food processor. The rule was it had to include cleaning and putting away the food processor. I’m pretty sure I won, but he may remember it differently.

Either way, you can whip up a batch in less time than it takes to walk the dog around the block.

I like to make my pesto with pistachios. It gives it a great color. My husband likes to make his with toasted pecans and jalapenos. Yu-uum. You can follow the basic recipe and experiment with different ingredients.

Here’s what you need:
2-3 cups loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/4- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pistachio nuts
2-3 garlic cloves
a dash or two of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

When hand pounding, start off pounding the garlic and coarse salt, then add about 1/3 of the nuts and 1/3 of the basil. I keep one hand sort of cupped around the top of the mortar to keep the nuts from flying out. Keep adding the nuts and basil. Once those are pounded to a very course paste, stir in the oil and cheese last.

With a food processor, just put everything in and give it a whirl.

Chopped basil will oxidize and turn brown. To prevent this, cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil before you store it in the fridge (it will keep, covered with plastic wrap, for about a week).

Pesto is great, of course, tossed in pasta, but is equally as good on chicken, pork, fish or pizza.

I like to make a big batch and freeze it. You can freeze pesto in ice cube trays. Then store the frozen cubes in a bag so you can grab a few when you need them. I usually make small pesto balls (like drop cookies), freeze them on a cookie sheet, then throw them in a freezer bag.

Once winter comes around, you’ll be happy you froze a little bit of summer.

3 Responses to “Pistachio Pesto”

  1. Mark DiJulio says:

    Everyone knows real chefs use a mortar and pestle for this sort of thing … ala Jamie Oliver, one of my favorite chefs!

  2. auntiekatkat says:

    One of the best a real keper.

  3. Ben says:

    Interesting combination. I didn’t make any this year, but next spring/summer I am going to have some basil in my garden (if I have one, that is)

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