When most folks hear the word pesto, they automatically think of the Ligurian specialty made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Although this regional specialty is indeed delicious and I make it often myself, there are so many more options when it comes to making pesto. I have recently started using pistachio nuts in my pesto recipes, and in place of basil, I use arugula, or a combination of parsley, basil and mint. A couple of weeks ago, I also made a tasty pesto using fresh fava beans from my garden that we enjoyed drizzled on pizza. Other ingredient combinations I enjoy in a pesto are kale and walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and almonds, as well as broccoli and hazelnuts. Depending on what I plan to use my pesto for, sometimes I will puree it until it is almost smooth, while other times I want to leave it chunky.
This particular pesto includes arugula, lightly toasted pistachio nuts, Pecorino Romano cheese, garlic, a splash of lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil brings it all together. This pesto is delicious tossed with hot pasta, stirred into risotto, drizzle on pizza before it is baked, spread on grilled chicken or fish, or tossed with grilled vegetables. This pesto has a lot of flavor and you can also add a tablespoon or two of it to your salad dressings, or add a few tablespoons to a pasta salad for an added punch. In this version of pesto, peppery arugula really adds flavor as well as a gorgeous green color, Pecorino Romano cheese adds some creaminess, the pistachios add texture and the lemon juice really makes the flavors pop. I have used wild arugula in this recipe but I find it has a little too much bite for my liking, so I prefer baby arugula leaves which have a fresh, subtle peppery flavor. Do use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for this pesto for the very best results.
I use my hand wand with a bowl attachment to make my pestos, but any blender or food processor will work. I like a bit of texture in my pesto, so I blend everything else but the pistachios together with enough oil to make a thick sauce, then add the pistachios and just pulse until they are finely chopped but not blended. Once I make a batch of this pesto, I keep it in a jar in my refrigerator and find it keeps well for up to 5 days.
Deborah Mele 2014
Arugula Pistachio Pesto
- 3 Packed Cups Fresh Arugula Leaves
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
- 8 Ounces Pecorino Romano Cheese, Cut Into Chunks
- 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
- 1/3 to 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Dash Of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- 1/2 Cup Lightly Toasted Unsalted, Peeled Pistachio Nuts
- Place the arugula, garlic, cheese, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes into your food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped.
- Begin to add the olive oil, pulsing to blend well.
- Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Add the pistachio nuts and pulse until finely chopped but not blended.
- Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator until needed.