Today is National Pistachio Day. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like these sweet little morsels. I even have enough patience to crack them open by hand just to get those little darlings to my lips. To celebrate, I’ve pulled together a simple, fresh and healthy pasta salad that sings with the green hue and sweet and salty crunch of pistachios. But first, a little history…
Pistachio imports were popularized in America in the late 1800’s by Eastern European immigrants. It was later discovered that the San Joaquin Valley in Central California was a perfect place to grown them with its hot climate, fertile soil and moderate winters. Pistachios are a premier crop grown here in California with the Central Valley producing over 98% of the total pistachios on over 250,000 acres.
Pistachios take 7-10 years to mature and have male and female trees. They are pollinated by the wind rather than bees with one male tree needed for every 30 female trees. Pistachios are harvested in September and October when the fruit is ripe and the shell splits.
I received two bags of roasted salted pistachios from the kind folks over at Setton Farms and the California Farm Water Coalition. Like most farms in California, Setton Farms is family-owned and prides itself in producing the best quality pistachios in the industry. They have a new energy packed snack bite made with pistachios and cranberries that is perfectly delicious. You can find out more about it and about Setton Farms on their Facebook page HERE and their website HERE.
The California Farm Water Coalition was formed 25 years ago in the midst of a serious drought with a mission to foster public awareness of the agricultural industry’s efficient use of water and environmental consciousness towards water use. They are an important liaison between farmers and the public on the important issue of water use in California. You can find out more about them on their Facebook page HERE and their website HERE.
With this recipe I really wanted to use the pistachios in a way that highlighted their beautiful green color and sweet meaty texture. Making a cool pasta salad with fresh vegetables really allows the pesto to coat each and every bite with the savory sweet pistachio crunch. This recipe is entirely vegan but you could always add some grilled chicken breast for extra protein or swap out the whole wheat noodles with rice to make it gluten-free. Or, just make the pesto itself and use it as a dip or spread on bread.
Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad
Servings: 6 • Size: 1 ¼ cups • Weight Watcher Points+: 8
Calories: 295 • Fat: 13g • Carbs: 36g • Fiber: 5g • Protein: 10g
Sugars: 3g • Sodium: 135mg • Cholesterol: 0mg
For the Pesto:
- ½ cup dry roasted and salted pistachios
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Salad:
- 10 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
- 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
In a food processor, combine the pistachios, basil, lemon zest, juice and black pepper. Puree on low speed while drizzling the olive oil into the mixture. Stop the food processor to scrape down the sides as needed.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup liquid. Toss the pasta with the pesto, mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper. Add some of the reserved liquid if the pesto is too thick. Serve at room temperature and refrigerate any leftovers.