5-ingredient Sicilian pesto saves a last-minute Valentine

AP , Tuesday 14 Feb 2023

Pasta may not sound romantic, but a Sicilian no-cook pesto provides enough homemade personal touch to save Valentine’s Day. And dinner will be ready in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta.



This recipe from our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, calls for just five ingredients to create a sauce that requires only a blender and minimal knife work.

Though the most common pesto is the classic Genovese combination of basil and Parmesan, we loved a version we found in Sicily that also includes two of the island’s premier products, pistachios and ricotta. We blend them all with chives, for additional freshness, while the pasta cooks until al dente. Incorporating a bit of the starchy pasta water helps thin the sauce and make it cling to the noodles.

There’s no need to grate the Parmesan, the nuttiness of which complements the pistachios. Simply cut it into chunks and toss the pieces into the blender. The pesto is good on a wide variety of pasta shapes, but the hollow centers and surface ridges of rigatoni do a particularly good job of gripping the rich, creamy sauce.

We’re usually fans of toasted nuts, but this is a case where raw pistachios are best. Their bright color and natural sweetness are key for a vibrant, full-flavored pesto.


Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound rigatoni or other short tubular pasta

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1⅓ cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

¾ cup raw pistachios, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

2 ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), cut into 4 or 5 pieces

½ cup lightly packed fresh basil

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh chives

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

In a blender, combine the ricotta, the whole pistachios, oil, Parmesan, basil, chives, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and blend until creamy, about 1 minute; the pesto should have a consistency similar to yogurt.

Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir, adding more reserved pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with the chopped pistachios.

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