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Penne with zucchini and pistachio pesto

Penne con zucchine e pesto di pistacchi

zucchini, penne, pistachios, basil and parsley

Unlike the classic Pesto Genovese this zucchini and pistachio pesto recipe has no cheese so it's lighter, quicker and easier; a perfect summer recipe that is both delicious and an amazing shade of green. Some people suggest using either fresh or dried green pasta (typically colored with spinach and/or parsley) with this type of pesto sauce, but as you can see from the photo below, this dish is already a frightening shade of green with just regular dried pasta so I don't see the point of even more green, unless perhaps it happens to be March 17th.

The language students among you will have noticed the use of the feminine gender for zucchine in the Italian title versus the American and Australian spelling of zucchini. In fact, as Elena reliably informs me, the boring old zucchine can be either masculine or feminine in Italy so perhaps it was this humble vegetable that started the whole gender fluidity trend that is in vogue today. With all this confusion no wonder the English and New Zealanders prefer to say courgettes.

And please, buy a superb Italian olive oil and finish this dish with a liberal helping just before you take your first forkful of pasta. Makes a world of difference.

Ingredients for 2 people:

280 grams ( 10 oz ) penne

300 grams ( 11 oz ) zucchine

50 grams ( 2 oz ) unsalted pistachios

40 grams ( 1.5 oz ) fresh basil

20 grams ( 1.0 oz ) flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 cloves of garlic

lemon zest

extra virgin Italian olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Put the pistachios in an unoiled pan and with the heat quite high give them a few minutes to toast, without burning them, then chop them up very roughly and put them to one side. Reserve a few in a separate dish to sprinkle on the plate at the very end.

2. Oil a large pan generously and add two garlic cloves either peeled or in camicia and let them color only a little on medium low heat before discarding them.

3. Meanwhile julienne the zucchine lengthwise and then cut the full length strips in half. It's much more authentic if you julienne the zucchine the old fashioned way so most of the thin strips have some outside green color on them. Don't cut them so finely that they resemble matchsticks.

4. Put the penne into well salted water on a rolling boil.

5. After discarding the garlic, sauté the julienned zucchine on a medium heat for no more than 10 minutes. They should have a slight crunch to them so don't allow them to become overcooked and mushy. After being julienned they will have lost their density and will cook quickly.

6. For two people these quantities are small enough to just use a hand blender instead of a food processor, in which case put the pistachios, basil and parsley into a tall narrow plastic container with some olive oil and blitz them, adding more oil and some pasta cooking water as necessary to achieve the right consistency. The mixture will require more salt than you think, so be generous and taste as you go, as well as adding some pepper. Go easy on the parsley or the final result will taste a little bitter.

7. When the penne is still a little al dente, remove it with a slotted spoon and add it to the zucchine pan. Then add the pesto and mix everything well, adding more liquid or seasoning as required.

8. Plate it with a sprinkling of the reserved pistachios, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice to keep everything fresh and zingy and a very generous slug of some exquisite Italian olive oil.

penne con zucchine e pesto di pistacchio


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