Legend has it that lovers used to meet under pistachio trees and listen for shells cracking, which signaled everlasting happiness. We don't have a pistachio tree handy, but we do have Jeff Cerciello's immensely gratifying pistachio-pesto pasta. In Santa Monica at Farmshop's newly launched artisan market, Cerciello replaces the oft-used basil-pine-nut version with an arresting combination of fresh parsley, mint, garlic, Meyer-lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Toasted pistachios and tender broccoli florets provide soulful heft in a recipe that's become our newest Italian-inspired crush.
Pasta with Pistachios, Meyer Lemon and Broccoli
Recipe adapted from Jeff Cerciello, the artisan market at Farmshop, Santa Monica, CA
Yield: 6 servings
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus extra for pasta water
1½ pounds medium tube-shaped pasta (such as maccheroni or penne)
1 large head broccoli, stems trimmed
2 garlic cloves
Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon (or zest of 1 regular lemon with 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon orange juice)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup mint leaves
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely grated Pepato or Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Fennel pollen (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pistachios until fragrant and lightly toasted, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and cool, then coarsely grind in a food processor. Transfer the ground pistachios to a bowl and set aside
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some kosher salt and the pasta and cook until almost al dente, about 8 minutes. When the pasta is almost finished, add the broccoli to the pot and cook for 2 minutes more or until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is tender. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta and broccoli through a large colander.
3. In the same food processor, combine the garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and kosher salt and grind into a fine paste. Add the parsley and mint and pulse to make a rough paste. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer to a medium saucepan and stir in the ground pistachios.
4. Add the pasta water to the pesto; bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, broccoli and pesto. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside for 5 minutes. To serve, divide the pasta among plates or bowls and garnish with the grated cheese, chives, sea salt and fennel pollen, if using.
*This article was originally published on 02/14/2012 by Tasting Table editors. The restaurant, chef and/or recipe are in no way affiliated with or endorsing the featured sponsor.