I have a special recipe for you!
One of the best of my pastas, LOVED by Italians is orecchiette with a sun-dried tomato pesto with pistachios! It is a yummy and deliciously creamy pasta dish that is great for parties.
Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Pistachios
Preparation: 30 minutes
Serves: approximately 12
This is one of the easiest pastas to make. There is nothing to it if you have a food processor. Of course, if you are a purist, do pull out your mortar and pestle and grind away manually. Pestos are great, because with a few simple ingredients and a whir or two, you are done.
Years ago – about 25 - when we first moved back to New York City and I followed the then new Food Channel, there was a program in which a Californian – so forward thinking when it came to cooking traditional Italian -, I believe, created a sun-dried tomato pesto, but using almonds as an alternative to the pine nuts, and… substituted half the olive oil with chicken broth. I have to say that I didn’t know where to look at that point – chicken broth in pesto took me out of my comfort zone. However, I loved the idea of sun-dried tomatoes, which at the time I hadn’t yet come across, not even in Italy. So, I decided to try it, but used pistachios, which is preferred in my household. One of the reasons why I use walnuts in my chocolate cake, instead of the more well-known almond in the Caprese cake. That, however, is another story.
This is a fantastic paste with any remaining pesto to be used on crostini or a tablespoon dropped into vegetable soup or spread on a wrap or leftover bread with mozzarella and placed under a grill. It is just very, very versatile, and the taste is splendid like the sun. This is one of the favorite pastas that people don’t mind repeating and I use quite often for parties. It can be made a few days ahead and placed in the refrigerator. The amount is enough for 3 – 3 ½ lbs of pasta. An extraordinary substitute for the farfalle for a pesto is the simple orecchiette, literally little ears. That would definitely be an Italian first choice with this dish.
Remember also to think about who your guests are. The amount of pasta will depend on how many people you are serving and if you know them well enough to know the quantities they might consume. You don’t have to use all the pesto for the pasta if you are serving a smaller portion. The hot cooking water will make the paste creamier and you can if you still feel it is too dry, add a little crude oil at the end. Actually, it won’t be necessary if you use the water.
2 lbs pasta (for a party I would use 3 – 3 ½ lbs)
2 bottles approximately 8 oz of sun-dried tomatoes under oil, pour out oil in bottles
3 cups basil, washed and dried
1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
1 cup pistachios, ½ for the sauce and ½ to toss in at the end
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup grated parmigiano, 1 cup or more, extra to be served at the table
½ cup grated pecorino romano
In a food processor add all of the ingredients except for the cheese. Add the olive oil as needed. Taste for salt, but remember you are adding cheese. I prefer to let people add salt or additional cheese at the table. Spoon the pesto into a container with an airtight cover. Add the cheese and mix in well. Don’t overdo. Italians always like to add more cheese. I used to get a bit worried when they did, as that can be a sign that they think the dish needs a little extra something. At times I just pour the additional pistachios on top and seal, as I can be forgetful and may find that I can’t find the extra pistachios until after the meal is over. Then, somehow, they just present themselves from wherever they were hiding all along. Cheeky.
In the meantime, put the water on to boil. When it boils, add the salt to the water. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and let cook following the instructions on the box. Remember it should be al dente. Take seriously into consideration that especially with a pesto you will need to stir rapidly the drained pasta with the sauce for a few more minutes before serving to make it a bit creamier in texture, and to maintain the heat of the pasta when it arrives at the table. So, you may want to cut down by a minute or so on the actual cooking time. I would set aside approximately 1 – 2 cups of pasta liquid. You won’t need it all but better to be safe than sorry. Do check for salt halfway through the cooking process.
Before pouring the pasta into the serving dish add additional pistachios and stir in. Leave remaining pistachios to scatter on top and serve immediately. Don’t forget a beautiful cluster of basil leaves on top. I like to serve it in a white bowl so you get the colors of the flag of Italy – green white and red!