Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto
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pistachio pesto
Add a bit of oil, some salt and pepper, and your pesto is ready.

As we said yesterday, here’s the post for pistachio pesto. It seems that nearly everyone thinks of basil and pine nuts when it comes to pesto, but, we think they aren’t thinking outside the box. After all, the word pesto basically means pounded. That might not make sense until you think of the word pestle, as in mortar and pestle, which, of course, you use to pound and grind spices (and pesto). Now, we don’t actually use a mortar and pestle; instead, we get by with the most important tool in the kitchen …

a chef’s knife.

So, together, let’s quick blast out about 1/2 cup of pistachio pesto; that way, you can make your pizza, or just spread it on bread with a bit of cheese.

Pistachio Pesto

Yield: 1/2 cup

Pistachio Pesto


  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 30-40 large basil leaves
  • 2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Place pistachios in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring often, until fragrant and slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.

Place minced garlic in a small bowl and mash into a paste using the back of a spoon.

Using a chef's knife, roughly chop pistachios and basil. Combine into one pile and add the cheese on top. Chop to desired fineness, then transfer to the bowl with the garlic. Stir to combine, then stir in olive oil to make a paste.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.


Ingredient discussion:

Fresh basil only, obviously, but, perhaps not as obvious is that you should use a really good cheese and a really good olive oil. Both of these add a lot of flavor, so get the best you can. We always recommend using either real Parmesan or Grana Padano (made just like Parmesan, but not in the Parma region of Italy). It’s what we use on a day-to-day basis since it’s about half the price of real Parmesan. And, of course, real Parmesan doesn’t come in a green shaker cylinder, no matter what the label says.

Procedure in detail:

toasting nuts
Always toast nuts before using them; it only takes a few minutes, and the flavor will be much more intense.

Toast pistachios. Always follow the rule of toasting nuts before using them. The toasting brings out more flavor, and this is true for any nuts. For a small amount of nuts, we find it easiest to just place them in a small skillet over medium heat to toast. We stir/shake the pan often and we watch carefully so the nuts don’t burn. Burnt nuts are no improvement. Once toasted, remove them from the pan to cool.

mashing garlic
The back of a spoon works wonders when making garlic paste.

Mash garlic. While the nuts cool, place the garlic in a small bowl and mash it into a paste with the back of a spoon. If you want, you can add a pinch of kosher salt to the garlic. The salt will act like tiny knives to help slice and mash the garlic.

chopping basil
A rough chopping is enough to get the basil started.

Chop pistachios and basil. Once the nuts are cool, give them a quick rough chop to get them started. While you’re at it, give the basil leaves a few chops, too.

making pesto
Pile everything (except the oil), and start chopping.

Add cheese. Pile the nuts and basil into one pile and add the cheese on top. Now, go to town with that chef’s knife, chopping, chopping, and chopping. Scrape everything back into a pile and repeat. Keep chopping until the pesto is about as fine as you’d like it. Add to the bowl containing the garlic.

Add oil. Stir the basil, pistachios, and garlic together, then add the oil and stir again. If needed, add more oil, enough so that when stirred in, you’ll have a green paste.

Taste and season. Taste the pesto, and add salt and pepper as needed. Feel free to stir in a bit more cheese or olive oil. Just make it taste good to you.

Pesto is one of our favorite ways to use fresh basil. It only takes a few minutes, it’s delicious, and you can make so many variations besides the standard version with pine nuts. We think that once you have real fresh pesto a couple of times, you’ll never buy the stuff from the store again. Five stars; after all, it’s the taste of summer.

Worth the trouble?

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