I don't have a good track record for remembering firsts. Pesto is a vivid exception. The scene was 9th grade - a 'pasta party' at Christine C.'s house. In addition to the mandatory red sauce, Christine's mom also presented us with a platter of spaghetti all speckled green. I was intrigued.
For those who aren't familiar, a pasta party is an adorable ritual enjoyed by high school athletes. The evening before a game the whole team gathers at the home of one patient parent to eat heaps of pasta. The presumed logic being that carb-loading is imperative to peak performance the following day. It's entirely unnecessary and totally fun. Lots of inter-grade bonding and boy talk. I imagine this tradition has suffered in the era of gluten intolerance. If there are any high school readers out there I'd welcome a report.
Anyhow, I digress. I swiftly cornered Christine's mom and complimented the 'green stuff'. She showed me an empty packet and explained that all you need to do is mix the contents with oil and presto, pesto! That night I relayed the discovery to my mom and made my case for partaking in this exotic delicacy. "Oh, your father doesn't like pesto." Womp womp. The ultimate veto. Reflecting on this memory, maybe my Dad didn't like pesto because his reference point was freeze-dried powder that came in a packet.
By college I had graduated to jarred pesto and understood that basil and pine nuts were essential common denominators. Then one fateful day a roommate demonstrated that any old combo of nuts + greens could yield a mighty pesto. I think her version featured arugula and walnuts. Fast forward many moons to this weekend where I found myself with a cupboard full of pistachios and mint aplenty due to the Easter holiday. A new duo, but why not? Even if only because it's documented here on the world wide web this is a first I won't soon forget.
pistachio Mint Pesto
Makes ~ 1.5 cups
- 1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
- 2 cups mint leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tb. lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Pinch salt
- Toast pistachios in a dry skillet over medium heat until just they are fragrant and just beginning to browm, 3-5 minutes; let cool
- In a food processor combine pistachios, mint, cheese, lime zest, garlic, and salt until you have a thick paste
- With the motor running add olive oil and lime juice through the feed tube; if pesto is too thick add water 1 Tbs. at a time until pesto reaches desired consistency
- Keep pesto in the fridge for up to a week; also freezes well