Recently we signed up for Discovery+, and let me tell you: it’s a trip. I’ve been able to revisit so many of the shows I used to watch like Barefoot Contessa, Mexican Made Easy, and Everyday Italian, while also being able to check out newer shows while avoiding six-hour marathons of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and basically pretending that Pioneer Woman doesn’t exist. (The former is fine to watch if I’m sitting at a bar on a Friday evening, having a drink and waiting for my food, but the latter is simply not my jam.)
Watching all of these old shows reminded me of the ingredients that they used fairly regularly, like Ina Garten and her “good” vanilla and Giada De Laurentiis and her mascarpone cheese, and seeing the latter featured in several episodes in recent weeks got me in the mood to make something with it.
This herb-pistachio pesto combines all of the things I love about pesto into one sauce: the oregano and parsley adding some added grassiness that balances basil’s sweetness, the salted, roasted pistachios replacing pine nuts and adding more body as a result, and roasted garlic because raw cloves don’t sit well with my husband and I actually like it better this way. It’s a hearty, late-winter or spring sauce that can be tossed with pasta, spread on a pizza, slathered on a slice of crostini, or even poured on chicken thighs and baked in the oven.
(Also? Now that we have the air fryer/convection toaster oven, I can roast a head of it in 20 minutes which is AMAZING.)
Usually when I make pesto I either add some hard cheese into the mix or top pasta with some shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino, but again, the siren call of mascarpone was too hard to ignore. I’ve served mascarpone spiked with freshly-ground black pepper with tomato sauce, so I was wondering if it would pair well with pesto.
Spoiler: it works. Because this pesto is on the assertive side, it isn’t overwhelmed by the creaminess of the cheese. The sharp flavors of the pesto still come through, while the cheese adds a layer of comfort that, let’s face it, we all still could very much use right now.
You don’t have to use mafaldine for this recipe; a linguini will do nicely, or even a fettuccine depending on your machine. I personally like the frilly edges, and am inclined to agree with Mimi Thorisson’s assessment that the strands look almost like necklaces.
Fresh mafaldine with herb-pistachio pesto and peppered mascarpone cheese
Serves 4 hungry people, or up to 6 as a light first course.
- One batch of nine-yolk dough, find the recipe here (Makes about one pound of pasta)
- 1 bunch hydroponic basil, leaves thoroughly picked over
- ½ cup tightly-packed parsley leaves
- 2 TB oregano leaves
- ⅓ C shelled roasted and salted pistachios
- 1 head roasted garlic, recipe to follow
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(Note: this recipe is made with a Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine)
Make the mafaldine: portion the dough into four pieces, flatten the first piece, and roll it out once on the widest setting. Fold the dough into thirds like a book, rotate the dough so that folds are perpendicular to the roller, and roll it through again. Repeat two more times. Dial to the next highest setting, roll the dough through once, and repeat until the dough is 1/8th inch thick. (This is the fifth setting on my pasta machine.) Cut the dough using the mafaldine cutter and place on a silicone mat. Repeat with remainder of the dough.
Make the pesto: in a small food processor, combine the herbs, pistachios, and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their paper skins and into the bowl of the processor. Add half of the olive oil, start to process, and add more olive oil to bring the sauce into a smooth puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the mascarpone: In a small bowl, add about two teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper to the cheese, and add more if desired. Set aside.
To finish the dish: bring a large pot of water to a boil, and then season with kosher salt. Add the mafaldine and cook until the pasta is floating, about 3-4 minutes. Drain, and then add the pesto to the pot and stir well to combine.
To serve, split the pasta into bowls and spoon some peppered mascarpone on each serving of pasta. Serve immediately.
Air-fryer/convection toaster oven roasted garlic:
- 1 head roasted garlic, outer paper layers removed
- 1 TB olive oil
- Pinch of kosher salt
Cut the top of the garlic head and place both the tops and main head into a foil packet. Drizzle the oil on the garlic and season with a pinch of kosher salt. Close the packet, place in the basket of the toaster oven, and roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Let it cool before squeezing the garlic into the pesto sauce.