My Sicilian Maria friend invited me and a few other girls over to lunch just before Christmas and made the most gorgeous gnocchi in a pistachio sauce (that and lots of other dishes) and, for good measure!, she also gave us a packet of pistachio ‘flour’ to take home with us. Everyone knows how generous Sicilians truly are.
Anyway … the pistachios in question hail from Bronte in Sicily and enjoy the reputation of being the very best you could lay your hands on. You can read all about it on the following link: http://www.bronteinsieme.it/BrIns_en/4ec_en/pist_en.html … but here is a snippet in the meantime: “The pistachio (from the Greek Pistàkion) was already known to Assyrians and Greeks as a medicinal drug, a powerful aphrodisiac and as an antidote against bites of poisonous creatures. Avicenna, considered the Hippocras and the Aristotle of the Muslim East, in his “Canon of Medicine” prescribed it against liver diseases and as an aphrodisiac.”
During the high middle ages, it was the Arabs that, having taken away Sicily from the Byzantine, incremented the pistachio cultivation and this had a great expansion in the territory of Bronte. Of Arab origin are, in fact, the words frastuca and frastucara that respectively indicate the fruit (in Arab “fustuq”) and the plant.”
Now that we know that the pistachio is a powerful aphrodisiac (maybe because it is rich in Vitamin E?), we’ll have all the more reason to want to eat it. Oysters, chocolate, pistachios … all good.
The actual recipe for the pasta dish (copied from the gnocci dish that Maria had made) is pretty straightforward. It calls for: ham (yes! ham .. incredible), cream (yes! even more incredible … cream and Sicily are not two words you would associate in the same sentence) and freshly grated parmesan cheese (enough with the exclamation marks but you get the picture). In other words, it’s easy and it is ‘assembling’ much more than ‘cooking’ — and thus very useful on occasion.
Grate the parmesan …
Get your cream out of the fridge …Here are about 200g of plain ham (prosciutto cott), the spaghetti and the packet of bronte pistachio flour.
Roughly chop the ham (on the left) … and open the packet (on the right).
Pour some olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan … I added some peppercorns. I love pepper, what can I say. (And it is so good for you, by the way).Switch the heat on and add the chopped up ham …
Then the cream … And, last, the pistachios. Reserve some of the pistachio for garneshing at the end. Cook for as long as it takes for the flavours to combine (hardly any time at all). I thought a little bit of bottarga wouldn’t go amiss … so I placed one in a bowl together with a grater, to put on the table … so that those who wanted it could grate it directly onto their plate. When the spaghetti had cooked, I plopped them into the saucepan and combined them properly with the sauce. I sprinkled the parmesan and some more pistachios over the individual plates. And my husband, who loves bottarga, grated a liberal amount all over his plate.A close-up.
It was good. And we were all hungry and that always helps. However, it wasn’t anything to write home about as such … which was a pity, considering how truly lovely the pistachio flour was. I’ll have to work at this recipe.
To follow? A lovely fresh salad with oranges (also from Sicily), olives, fine slithers of fennel and … an out-of-season indulgence … a few starwberries. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar etc.