Tuesday, June 30, 2009


A wise man once said: "Everybody likes pesto. You walk into a restaurant, that's all you hear - pesto, pesto, pesto."

That man was George Costanza. So as you can see, even a short, stocky, slow-witted bald man realizes the intrinsic deliciousness of pesto. My finest pesto experience came from a small grocery store in the village of Vernazza, Italy - one of the 5 towns which makeup the Cinque Terre. On the train ride to Italy, my traveling companion and I quickly realized that our collective knowledge of the Liguria region was limited to 4 nuggets: bonjourno, ciao, arrivederci, and "this is the birthplace of pesto."

We survived ... but not before a botched train connection in Genoa which sent us an hour north to Torino instead of south to Monterosso. But that's another story for another time.

Anyway, I have been futilely trying to recreate that pesto ever since. (I even bought my own basil plant.) This recipe does not even come close, but it's still good. From a little trick that I learned from Alton Brown, I substitute pistachios for pine nuts because ... well ... I was too lazy to make a special grocery run for pine nuts. As is the case with most of my recipes, even the Lord of the Idiots could follow this one.

Pistachio Pesto

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups tightly packed basil
  • 3/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 the juice of one lemon

OK, how finely you need to chop the first 3 ingredients depends on your method of mixing. If using a blender, then mince the garlic, chop the basil, and crush the pistachios. If you are using a fancy food processor, then just throw those three in there and pulse 10-15 times.

After you have prepared the garlic/basil/pistachios, add the cheese. Then while the blender or food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Be careful not to overprocess the mixture less you end up with the consistency of peanut butter. (Admittedly, I committed this sin with the batch pictured at the top). Once the olive oil has been added, stop and taste. I like to add the lemon juice to perk up the flavors, but you may want to leave it out. As always, season with salt and pepper.

Store in a mason jar in the fridge. This works well as either a spread for your turkey sandwich or tossed with a freshly boiled batch of pasta.

Speaking of pasta, during my aforementioned trip to Italy I discovered this unique pasta shape pictured below. It's called "trofie" and was the de facto vehicle of choice for pesto at nearly every restaurant in which I dined in Cinque Terre. The only place I have found this pasta in the US is at Williams Sonoma.

Hey, if it's good enough to sell Thomas Keller's stuff, then it's good enough for me.


Celeste said...

I LOVE trofie...carried some back from Italy last year, was very sad when it was gone. Happy to know that WS sells it!

The Decayed Gentlewoman said...

I've got a great recipe for pesto. It calls for the classic olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic, but instead of using all basil, you use 2 parts basil, 1 part parsley, and 1 part mint. It is delicious!

Peter said...

Celeste - I'm glad that someone else shares me love. I too had been looking for it everywhere and was shocked when I saw the bag at WS.

TDGW - That does sound delicious. I've been making a lot of pesto lately, so I'll have to try switching up the herbs in my next batch.