6 March 2013

Surf & Turf Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Since joining Daring Bakers and Cooks last month, I started to look all over the internet for more of these food blog related challenges. Because nothing gets me going better than a challenge to live up to.  These challenges however have proved to be rather elusive, or maybe it's just me using the wrong search words with google. Who knows. 

Either way, I hadn't seen many interesting ones until I stumbled upon the Pasta Please challenge; initiated by Tinned Tomatoes.  Now, pasta is always a welcome dish at our house : it's quick, easy, liked by almost anyone (quite handy when you have unexpected eaters) and yet very versatile.  So, any challenge involving pasta means that I am game :o)

This month's theme for the challenge, hosted by Blue Kitchen Bakes, is homemade pesto.  Until recently, I was never a a fan of pesto, having had only the storebought kind.  Then one day, I decided to jump into the deep end of the food processor and give homemade pesto a try.  Result? I saw the light. I have officially become a pesto lover.  No more industrial stuff for me ... like for many things, nothing beats homemade food.  I doubt that anyone will contradict me.

I made regular (basil/pine nut) pesto for the Chicken Pizzaiola I posted a week ago, but I figured that it wouldn't be a real challenge if it was something that I already made.  So I went surfing on the waves of the gigantic cookbook that is the world wide web and came across this page that featured a pesto that had my taste-buds quiver with anticipation : Pesto di pistacchi or pistachio pesto.  Apparently this type of pesto is a Sicilian speciality and another reason to add Sicily to my travel bucket list. But I disgress.

So, pistachio pesto was going to be my challenge.  However, I didn't feel like sticking to the posted recipe, and therefore this is going to be a very personal take on this pistachio pesto.  Because I knew that I would be posting about this recipe, I tried to measure out the different ingredients but in general my cooking is often a guesswork thing. Je cuisine au pif, as we would say in French.  So feel free to adapt and change to accommodate your own palate. Unlike in baking, when cooking, the only rule is that there are no rules.

For the grand première of the pistachio pesto, I paired it up with whole wheat spaghetti, along with seafood and chorizo, a surf and turf combo that always works wonderfully.


For the pesto :

* 100g shelled (and peeled) pistachios
* 20g pine nuts
* 2 garlic cloves (°)
* a handful of fresh basil
* 50g grated parmesan cheese
* olive oil
* seasoning of salt and pepper to taste

(°) ETA : we are garlic aficionados and use lots, but I guess one clove would be more than enough for most people

For the dish (serves 4): 

* 1 large onion, diced
* 1 zucchini, diced
* 125g chorizo, sliced
* 200g seafood (mine was a precooked mix of shrimp, mussels, clams and squid)
* seasoning
* 250g of uncooked whole wheat spaghetti


For the pesto

The website I linked to above, suggested that the pistachios should not only be shelled (obviously) but also peeled in order to fully release their flavour. I tried peeling them straight out of the shell but the purplish skin covering the pistachios proved too tough, a problem I resolved by resorting to the same technique used for peeling tomatoes i.e. submerging them in boiling water.  Once the skins were soaked through (which, beware, takes longer than for tomatoes), removing them was relatively easy.

I started crushing the different ingredients in my mortar but as it ended up being too small for the amount of ingredients I had prepared,  I transferred everything into my foodprocessor for further mixing.

Mix all the ingredients together, adding dashes of olive oil until reaching the consistency you are looking for.  I kept mine not too "wet", as I always add a bit of cooking water from the pasta to my dishes in order to turn the pesto into a more liquid sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve.

For the dish :

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, to cook the pasta in.

In a skillet, fry the diced onions in some olive oil.  In order to speed up the preparation time, I pre-steamed the diced zucchini before adding it to the pan. Nevertheless, you could also add the raw zucchini to the onions at this stage, in which case you'll have to allow for some additional time for them to get done.

Stir the chorizo into the vegetables and let it simmer with the other ingredients for a few minutes in order for the pimenton it contains to colour them.  Then add the pre-cooked seafood and stir everything together, mixing the flavours.

At this point I added two spoonfuls of the pistachio pesto, and a bit of the cooking water from the pasta to "loosen it up", but you can use how many spoonfuls you like.  Stir the pesto into the other ingredients.  Taste and rectify if needed with salt and/or pepper.

Drain the cooked pasta, pour it into the skillet and toss everything together.

Serve hot with some fresh basil leaves (and/or pistachios) for decoration.


  1. Looks really tasty! I love pistachios... :) However... de-skinning them sounds like a pain in the arse!

  2. I like your style of cooking, very similar to mine. I quite often find a recipe based on the ingredients I have/want to use and then tweak it. Thanks for entering this into Pasta Please, the flavour combination sounds wonderful.

    Incidentally in case you haven't found it alread there is a list of the main monthly blogging challenges here