Among the few souvenirs we brought home from our honeymoon were two small cookbooks that now sit on our shelf. They are in Italian, and while I can barely speak the language, one of the ways I’m attempting to learn is by reading the recipes in order to pick up vocabulary and the like. They appealed to me because they had interesting recipes and gorgeous photography, to be sure, but also because the dishes they contained seemed different than anything I’ve come across in the Italian cookbooks we currently own (with the likely exception of The Silver Spoon).
When I saw “Trofie with five-herb pesto,” I had to say I was intrigued; I was in the mood for fresh pasta and this pesto relied on pistachios to provide the nutty flavor. Our normal fresh pasta dough was not quite right to make the hand-rolled twists, however, so we stuck with reliable linguini as we knew it would hold up well to the stiff sauce. I also forgot to buy thyme so we only used four herbs to make this pesto, but we didn’t miss it that much; in the future we could add some lemon zest instead to provide the flavors in a pinch. Come to think of it, adding zest would make this even more inspired from Liguria—as we learned during our stay, lemons (and subsequently limoncello) are one of the few things that they do well.
In keeping with the evening’s theme, we paired the pasta with simple breaded shrimp skewers that are so easy to make: marinate peeled and deveined shrimp in some olive oil, garlic and parsley for about an hour, toss with breadcrumbs, spear them onto skewers, and broil for about 6 minutes until they are pink and delicious. Served with lemon wedges, few things felt more appropriate for the last official weekend of summer.
We naturally made much more than we’d eat in one sitting of both things, and while the shrimp was saved to snack on for the next day or two, I was fortunate in being able to lug a sizable plastic container of the stuff to enjoy for my last two lunches, though to be civilized (and also to exert a little portion control lest I eat the entire container in one sitting) I use a little bowl from Pottery Barn that I purchased after I landed my first post-collegiate position. It’s traveled with me to several offices since then, and is as sturdy as ever:
Ligurian Four-Herb Pesto with Fettuccine (adapted from La cucina grande: Pasta):
- 1 bunch parsley, leaves removed from stems/stalks
- 1 bunch basil, well-washed with leaves removed from stem
- 10 springs marjoram, leaves removed from stem
- 15 mint leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Olive oil (about ¼ cup to ½ cup, depending on preferred consistency)
- 1lb fresh pasta
In a blender or food processor, combine herbs, pistachios, garlic along with some salt and pepper (though go easy here—season as you go along until you get the taste you want), then slowly add the olive oil in order to get a smooth, pasty consistency. Once the mixture is smooth, add the cheese and blend again to incorporate—adding it too early will make the sauce too thick too quickly. Toss with fresh hot pasta (we made enough to serve four), and serve with extra cheese to top if desired.