New nut harvests are in and, as usual, time to cook is short, which is why we're having this dish do an encore. Autumn's pesto—this is originally from the cook at a horse farm in Umbria, who let me hang out in her kitchen. You'll have it do still more encores.

Pasta with Chopping-Board Pistachio Pesto

Reprinted fromThe Splendid Table's® How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by American Public Media.

Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

10 minutes prep time; 10 minutes stove time
Equally good hot from the pot or at room temperature

Pistachios, scallions, garlic, and fresh herbs: who would think this adds up to a pasta dish? This is actually a riff on an Umbrian home sauce. You do it all with your trusty knife and one pot. Call it green spaghetti, and the kids will be all over it. It's also good hangover food.

5 quarts salted water in a 6-quart pot

The Pesto:
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
2 large garlic cloves
1 tight-packed cup coarse-chopped fresh chives or scallion tops
4 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup shelled salted pistachios or almonds
2 tablespoons good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil

Pasta and Finish:
1 pound imported spaghetti or linguine
1 tablespoon good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fine-chopped red onion
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Asiago or Stella Fontinella cheese

Bring the salted water to a boil.

To make the pesto, pile the salt and pepper on a chopping board. Crush the garlic into it with the side of a large knife, and fine chop. Add the chives, basil, and onion, and continue chopping until the pieces are cut very fine. Add the nuts to the pile and continue cutting until they are coarsely chopped. Directly on the board, blend in the oil. Taste for salt and pepper.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook at a fierce boil, stirring often, until it is tender but still a little firm to the bite. Scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Quickly drain the pasta.

Film the empty pasta pot with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place it over medium heat, and sauté the finely chopped onion in it for 1 minute. Stir in the pesto. Warm it for only a few seconds over medium heat to let the flavors blossom do not cook it. Stir in about 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water to stretch the sauce. Immediately pull the pot off the heat.

Add the drained pasta to the pot, and toss with the pesto and the cheese, adding more pasta water if the mixture seems very dry. Taste again for seasoning, and serve.


This pasta demonstrates a pet theory: chop ingredients together and not only do you save a lot of time, but their flavors also blend in a unique way.

You want the pasta cooking water to taste salty, like sea water, to season the pasta as it cooks. Toss a quarter cup or so of salt into the water as it starts to heat.


In the Reggio countryside, in northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, this is called the five-minute dessert for the amount of time it takes to mix the ingredients and get them in the oven. A cross between shortbread and marzipan, this cookie-like sweet is studded with almonds and pine nuts. Serve it cut into small diamond shapes with coffee, or top it with fruit or jam and slice into squares.

Pine Nut and Almond Shortbread

Reprinted from The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Scribner, 1999). Copyright © 1999 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Makes about 15 pieces or 1 tart, serving 6 to 8

2/3 cup (3.33 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably organic)
2/3 cup (3.33 ounces) cake flour (preferably organic)
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
Generous pinch of salt
1-1/3 cups (5.5 ounces) unblanched whole almonds, toasted
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) pine nuts
1-3/4 sticks (7 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
About 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch square cake pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. In a food processor or blender, finely chop two thirds of the almonds, adding the remaining third toward the last moment so they are only coarsely chopped. Stir into the dry ingredients along with the pine nuts.

By rubbing with your fingertips, blend in the butter until it is the size of small peas. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, extracts, and liqueur. Toss with the dry ingredients only long enough to moisten them. The dough should be rough, with big crumbs. Lightly pack it into the pan, without smoothing the top.

Bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out with a crumb or two. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack, top side up, by first inverting the pan on to a plate. Place a rack on the inverted shortbread and flip it over right side up. Serve the shortbread warm or at room temperature. Wrapped airtight, it will keep 2 to 3 days at room temperature.

To serve, sift the powdered sugar over the pastry and cut into 1-inch diamonds. Or leave the shortbread whole and cover with a good quality jam of your choice.

Note: If you don't want to buy a regular bottle of Amaretto for this recipe, many liquor stores sell small bottles (the size you used to get on airplanes) that are perfect for recipes calling for just a tablespoon or two of alcohol.

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