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Farfalle with Pistachio Cream Sauce

People keep asking me why, if I’m living in Sicily, I haven’t posted any Italian or Sicilian recipes on this site. Well, the answer is simple. I just don’t cook Italian food at home that often because I can go out and get really good pasta or pizza anytime I want. In fact, it’s very difficult to find restaurants in Sicily that serve anything but Italian food.  I love the food here, but we like to experiment with different things at home.  However, many of my recipes have been influenced by the foods that are readily available here and new cooking techniques that I have picked up over the last few years.  While the recipes you find here might not be Italian, many of them are born from my culinary experiences here in Sicily.

But there are a few Sicilian dishes I like to make at home that I will definitely be sharing with you over time and hopefully the list will continue to grow. One of my favorites is Pasta con Pesto al Pistacchio or Pasta with Pistachio Sauce. Variations of this dish can be found in most restaurants here, but this recipe that I learned during a cooking class is my favorite version. The best part is that it’s really fast and simple to make!

The pistachios grown here in Sicily are prized for their brilliant green color and are exported throughout the world. The majority of the nuts come from Bronte, an area situated on the base of Mount Etna. In the United States it seems that pistachios are most often eaten out of hand, but Sicilians use pistachios in a wide variety of both sweet and savory treats.  Perhaps most famous is the pistachio gelato, which I believe is the best gelato flavor in the world.  But you will also find several types of pistachio cakes, cookies, candies and pastries. Of the savory dishes, this pasta is my favorite.

Farfalle with Pistachio Cream Sauce

8 oz. farfalle or penne pasta
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1/4 C. ground pistachio (unsalted nuts, ground in a blender or food processor)
2 T. olive oil (plus a little extra)
1/2 – 3/4 C. heavy cream (according to taste)
crushed red pepper
fresh ground black pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  In the meantime, chop onion and grind the pistachios until the pieces are very small but not completely uniform.  Add pasta to water and boil according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, begin sauce: heat olive oil in a medium saute pan, add onion and cook until translucent but not browned.  Add pistachios and enough oil to moisten them (if needed). It should be a paste-like consistency.  Cook, stirring, over medium heat for about one minute (do not let the pistachios take on any color).  Add cream, stir until heated through, then remove from heat.  Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, black pepper and plenty of salt to taste.

When pasta is al dente, drain well then add to the saute pan with the sauce. Toss well to coat and serve immediately with lots of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves four as a first course.

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