Dish of the Week: Pistachio Pesto

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a spin on a classic recipe that is the perfect way to use your summer basil: pistachio pesto.

Pesto, known by its full name as pesto alla genovese, is an Italian sauce originating in Genoa. The sauce is most commonly made using fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Italian cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino. The name is derived from the Italian word pestare, meaning “to pound” or “to crush.” As such, the ingredients are pounded or crushed together. This was traditionally accomplished by using a mortar and pestle, but these days many people utilize a food processor or blender.

The origin of pesto is thought to date back to the Roman age, when ancient Romans made moretum, a similar paste of cheese, garlic, herbs, vinegar and olive oil. During the Middle Ages, a blend of garlic and walnuts called agliata was also popular. The introduction of basil wasn’t documented until 1863, when gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto published a description in his book La Cuciniera Genovese.

Today, pesto comes in many forms, with variations including pesto alla siciliana, which uses almonds instead of pine nuts and includes tomato, plus non-traditional iterations like walnut pesto, beet pesto and today’s star, pistachio pesto.

This recipe from Saveur incorporates pistachios, basil and cilantro, which makes a rich, slightly sweet sauce that is perfect for roasted vegetables or pasta. Lemon zest is added for brightness.

Pesto di Pistacchio

makes 1 -1/4 cups
1-1/2 cups packed basil
1 cup olive oil
1 cup dry-roasted, unsalted pistachios
1/2 cups packed cilantro
1/4 cups finely grated parmesan
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Blend basil, oil, pistachios, cilantro, parmesan, zest and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper to taste.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano