Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Pistachio Pesto

Pesto, a beautifully simple condiment-type sauce, can be changed and enjoyed in so many different ways. Years ago, when my parents had a home in Massachusetts with a prolific garden, pesto was the answer for using and preserving the gorgeous green and aromatic plants that seemed to just keep growing and growing from July through September. Though my mom always made a more traditional pesto—with basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil— and used it exclusively as a pasta sauce, I began exploring variations a few years ago.

Actually, I first started playing with different ingredients by changing the nuts (I started using toasted walnuts—and pecans). Then, when I was working on The Hot Latin Diet, I had the privilege of collaborating with amazing chef, Sue Torres (and I will interview her one of these days for this blog!). Anyway, we were lucky because she shared her cilantro pesto with us all—which she has served in her NYC restaurant Sueños, atop grilled vegetables.  Thanks to Sue, I started playing with cilantro and toasted pine nuts—along with basil—in my pesto. But it wasn’t only the ingredients that Sue encouraged me to explore; it was also what I served it with. So now I use it like her with grilled vegetables, or simply on baguette rounds, often with slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella, or, of course, on pasta!  

My explorations with pesto continue.  In fact, this weekend I had the privilege of enjoying my friend Mary’s incarnation of the cilantro pesto recipe I had given her. Her interpretation included small chunks of avocado as part of a spread for baguette rounds. The result? Delicioso…

But back to Pistachio Pesto—
Not too long ago, Saveur magazine had an issue featuring different kinds of pestos. It was there that I first saw Pesto di Pistacchio, and decided to try it. It’s been very well received! I usually serve it with pasta, but I also enjoy it on top baguette slices. I’m sure that as you play, you’ll find your own favorite ways to create and serve it. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto  

PIstachio pesto--on a baguette slice, and with pasta
Makes about  2 cups

2 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry-roasted pistachios
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (I do include some of the stems--but not the roots)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, or parmesan (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine  all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended.  Season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to five days.


  1. OMG I'm going to make this for my husband's family this weekend. Total yum. Thanks for sharing Arlen !

  2. Any time, Darcie...and and let me know how they like it! Remember, this recipe has a lot of flexibility--and I know YOU liked it how it was, but you can always vary amounts--of basil and cilantro--and play with the other ingredients as well. Keep me posted!