What Is Pistachio Pesto?

Bronte pistachio

Short answer
Pistachio pesto (pesto di pistacchi) is a version of classic basil pesto that uses Sicily's famed Bronte pistachios in place of the more traditional pine nuts.

Long answer
Despite only accounting for 1% of global production, the bright green pistachios grown in the town of Bronte in the northeast of Sicily are considered the best in the world. The dry climate, salty sea breeze, and volcanic soil of Mount Etna combine to create the perfect conditions for pistachio cultivation. It is therefore no surprise that the Sicilians deviate from the official pesto recipe by switching the traditional pine nuts for pistachios when making their inimitable style of sauce.

Often called Sicily's "green gold," the pistachios boast a uniquely sweet and aromatic flavour that is considered so special that in 2009 they were granted protected designation of origin (DOP) status to avoid being mistaken for inferior copycats. The nuts (which, just like pine nuts, are actually seeds) are so sought-after that the local police patrol the harvest to warn off potential hijackers.

Bright green Bronte pistachios

Harvesting takes place every two years, with a fallow year to allow the soil to rejuvenate. Unlike almost all other varieties, Bronte pistachios are never salted or toasted, and if you can get hold of the real deal, you will be rewarded with an exceptionally sweet and creamy pesto that we think rivals its more famous Genovese cousin.

Sicilian pistachio pesto recipe

Basil 100g
Olive oil 75g
Pistachios 30g
Parmesan 25g
Pecorino 10g
Garlic x1 clove
Salt to taste

Add all the ingredients except the oil to a food processor and blitz to your preferred consistency.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and stream in the oil, stirring constantly.

For utmost authenticity, serve with fusilli pasta and cherry tomatoes.