Don't Let The Price Of Pine Nuts Keep You From Pesto
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today's Found Recipe is a solution to this vexing summertime problem, a whole lot of basil and not a lot of Benjamins. Let us explain. Many gardens are bursting with basil this time of year, driving people to make pesto, lots of pesto. To do it, they need Parmesan or Romano cheese, a little garlic, some extra virgin olive oil and Italian pine nuts. Oh, and a credit card.
JULIA DELLA CROCE: The Italian pine nuts are now going for between $60 and $120 a pound.
CORNISH: That's right, $60 to $120 a pound.
CROCE: Even in Italy, where they're also very expensive, they keep them under lock and key in the shops. So even the Italians can't afford them.
CORNISH: That's Julia della Croce, expert on Italian cooking, purveyor of pinyoni.
CROCE: Which have more flavor and as the Italians say, they're (speaking foreign language) which means they're much more aromatic than the pine nuts that you find from Asia these days.
CORNISH: But even Asian nuts are pricey, upwards of $35 a pound for a product that many people find kind of bland. So what's a cook - a frugal cook to do if they want to make a lot of pesto?
CROCE: I suspect all this pesto making is being done without pine nuts and maybe even without nuts. So I was thinking about this and I was thinking about a trip I took to Sicily. They grow a lot of pistachios in Sicily near Mount Etna. Very flavorful, delicious pistachios. And they were in everything. So I decided to make a pesto using pistachios in place of pine nuts. I added a little bit of almond and cut the basil with parsley because basil is very, very sweet. But if you add parsley to it, it really tones down the sweetness.
Of course, always good fruity extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of cheese. Put those together and I came up with the most delicious pesto. In fact, I think I even prefer it to the original. And it's beautiful because pistachios are green. A beautiful sauce, so delicious and it does not hurt your pocketbook. You're paying $14 a pound for pistachios. It's a fabulous replacement for the traditional pine nut.
CORNISH: That's Julia della Croce, author of "Italian Home Cooking." To get her recipe and see a picture of her pistachio pesto over fusilli pasta - yum - go to our Found Recipes page at NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.