Orecchiette With Pistachio Pesto

Orecchiette is a pasta shaped like a little ear.  It is made in the southern region of Italy called Puglia, where in the city of Bari women sit outside their houses and hand roll their pasta into large baskets.  It’s the perfect pasta shape for collecting sauces rich with vegetables or meat, but I love the way it holds the pistachio pesto in this recipe.  Be sure to use fresh pistachios, and don’t neglect to toast them in order to bring out their nutty fragrance. 


1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
zest of one lemon
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil


Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it well.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pistachios on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes.  Let cool, then chop finely or pulse in a food processor.  In a bowl, toss the pistachios with the garlic, mint, basil, zest, scallions, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of salt.  Drizzle in the olive oil and stir.  Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, following the package instructions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Immediately add the pistachio pesto with the reserved pasta water.  Toss gently until the pasta is coated with the pesto.  Serve immediately. 

MainsEvan Wei-Haas