Pasta with pistachio cream sauce
On this fooliest of foolish days, I must buck the practical joke trend and post something with all seriousness.
I want to share my new favorite pasta sauce: pistachio cream. Whipped up on a whim, thanks to some leftover pistachio milk, I’m still a little stunned at how out-of-this-world wonderful it turned out.
Fingers not crossed behind my back. Pinkie swear and scout’s honor. No foolin’.
It was my first time making pistachio milk — love, by the way — and wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from either milk or sauce.
I was not expecting the crazy flavorful outcome.
I’ve seen pistachio milk on other blogs here and there, but had a really difficult time tracking down raw pistachios (and my so far singular source is très expensive — must keep hunting for future use, because there will be both milk and sauce again).
The flavor of the milk? It’s hard to describe. Almond milk tastes very much like almonds, right? But while there is definitely pistachio flavor in pistachio milk, the distinctiveness of the nut — almost a sharp quality — is smoothed out and softened. It’s so lovely, I prefer it without further additions, such as vanilla extract or cardamom (although those are tasty, too).
In thickened sauce form, it needs only a pinch of salt to be outstanding.
(Despite “cream” in the name, there is no dairy in this pistachio sauce, neither cream nor cheese. And it needs none. It’s dairy-free, egg-free, and gluten-free, and therefore vegan and paleo — the pulp from the milk-making process serves as the lone thickener.)
With the extra chilly spring we’ve had this year, my over-wintered leeks are still crisp and tasty. This young leek was smallish — about a foot tall — going into winter and hung tight all season long (look at those healthy roots!), patiently waiting his turn in the kitchen. A worthy wait, I think, for this pasta dish, as it goes so well with the pistachio cream.
It’s still morning, and I’ve already seen/heard plenty of April Fool’s antics on TV, radio, and interwebs. But here in Cincinnati, April 1, 2013, means one thing, and one thing only: it’s Opening Day, y’all, and therefore, Cincinnati Reds Day.
I’m not an HR professional, but I would guess that Opening Day is one of, if not the, most popular days to play hooky from work: a one-day cold/migraine/flat tire epidemic will sweep the city. (Indeed, the commute into town was nearly desolate.) The annual pre-game parade winds conveniently past my office window, and marching band music plus a sea of red T-shirts will cheer the normally stoic and buttoned-down, gray-suited business district.
Take me out to the ballgame.
Pasta with pistachio cream sauce
This sauce is so savory and toothsome, it doesn’t even need cheese to round out the flavor. Feel free to add some grated Parmigiano reggiano if you wish, but, honestly, it doesn’t need it. Note that the pistachios should be soaked before making the milk (8 hours or overnight).
- for the pistachio milk:
- 1 cup raw pistachios, shelled
- for the pasta:
- 12 ounces pasta (use your favorite shape)
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced, plus extra for garnish
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- for the sauce:
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 baby leeks (or 1 medium leek)
- 2/3 cup pistachio milk (recipe below)
- 1 to 3 tablespoons pistachio pulp (see pistachio milk recipe below)
- kosher salt
- for the pistachio milk: soak the pistachios in 2 cups of water for at least 8 hours. Drain, and rinse.* If using a blender, blitz the nuts with 2 cups of water. Strain through a fine sieve, and set both the milk and pulp aside (separately). If using a juicer, place nuts in 2 cups of water, and ladle into the juicer. Set the milk and the pulp aside (separately). (Before starting, make sure your blender or your juicer can process nuts!)
- for the pasta: bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt well. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, and dump into a medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and a big pinch of salt. Toss to coat the pasta with the parsley.
- for the sauce: heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in the leeks and a big pinch of salt, and cook until the leeks are soft. Reduce heat to medium-low, and pour in the pistachio milk. Heat gently, mixing with the leeks. Add 1 tablespoon of the pistachio pulp, incorporating thoroughly into the milk. The sauce will begin to thicken. Add more pistachio pulp to reach the desired consistency. Remove the pan from heat.
- Plate the pasta and spoon and the sauce over the pasta. Garnish with minced parsley.
*The skins on the pistachios will be quite loose at this point, and can be “pinched” off. It’s not necessary to remove the skins, but doing so will create a smoother pistachio pulp. Leftover pulp can be used like a nut butter – spread on toast is my favorite.