Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta

Pancetta pistachio cream pasta

This delicious pasta dish was inspired by one of many mouth-watering meals we had in Sicily on a family holiday in 2016. Pistachios were found on just about everything (even spaghetti alle vongole!). This particular dish was really memorable – because it was simply heavenly, but also because of the location we ate it in…

We were at Bellavista Ristorante, a seafront restaurant on the North-Eastern tip of Sicily, in Torre Faro, near Messina – the very tip of the island, in the Strait of Messina, from where you can see across to Calabria.

In the photos below, you can see Hannah on the beach in Torre Faro, with Calabria a short distance away across the Strait, followed by the original creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta dish we ate in the restaurant.

So, nearly four years later, while having fun experimenting in the kitchen and creating recipes under the ‘Cooking with my daughter’ part of this blog (see also our Instagram account for photos, reels and live videos!), we decided to finally re-create this amazing yet incredibly simple dish.

In our recipe, we used home-made orecchiette (mixing up our regions, as orecchiette are from Puglia, but that’s ok – they work well with this sauce) – watch this space for the orecchiette recipe. They are remarkably simple to make. Meanwhile, take a look at our quick preview reel on Instagram.

Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta sauce – Ingredients

(for 4 generous portions)

  • 200g diced pancetta (unsmoked)
  • 500ml single cream
  • 150g ground pistachios (we use the nut chopping/grinding attachment on the Nutribullet, which does this in seconds)
  • fine sea salt – to taste

Pasta – which one, and quantities…

Use a short pasta of your choice. We used home-made orecchiette (recipe coming soon!), but lots of different types of short pasta will work. For 4 generous portions, as a single-course meal, you will need around 500g of dry pasta.

If you are being more traditional and having this dish as a ‘primo piatto’ to be followed by a meat or fish dish, you’ll want to roughly halve the portions for the pasta and the sauce.

Method

Place a large pan of water over a high heat and add a generous amount of coarse sea salt (about a handful) and a few drops of vegetable oil.

While the pasta water comes to the boil, prepare the creamy pistachio and pancetta sauce:

In a large sauté pan, fry off the pancetta over a medium heat until it has browned and crisped off.

Drain off most of the fat, then reduce the heat to low and add the cream to the pan. Stir from time to time and, once the cream is simmering, stir in most of the pistachios (save about 25g for sprinkling later). Check for taste and add a little bit of fine sea salt if needed.

Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta to your liking (is there any other way than ‘al dente’?!). Once cooked, drain and add to the sauce in the sauté pan. Stir through with the low heat still on, then take off the heat and serve.

Sprinkle the remaining ground pistachios over each portion.

Pancetta pistachio cream pasta

Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta | Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Nut, chia seed and raisin bars

Nut, chia seed and raisin bars

With the Covid-19 crisis affecting our shopping habits and availability of ingredients, I found that the various nut bars I often relied on for breakfast or a quick mid-afternoon snack were not always available in the shops.

I therefore decided to have a go at making my own. I have made these a few times now and they’re a big hit with the whole family, including hubby who doesn’t usually like eating nut bars.

Please note you can use whichever nuts you like – I love cashew nuts and started making them with just those, but they are very expensive (I had a look at the price of bulk bags of pistachios and they were even worse, so I’ll stear clear of those…shame, as I love pistachios!), so now I mix cashews and peanuts and the bars are equally delicious.

Nut, chia seed and raisin bars (makes approx. 14-16 bars)

  • 600g unsalted, unroasted nuts (I use blanched peanuts and raw cashew nuts, which I buy in bulk 1kg bags, but you can use whichever nuts take your fancy!)
  • 50g raisins
  • 70g chia seeds
  • 150g white chocolate (I use Callebaut white chocolate callets as they melt really well in the microwave, but any good quality chocolate that withstands melting and chilling well will work. I buy these in bulk… my latest purchase was a 2.5kg bag, which is dangerous in a house full of chocoholics!)
  • A generous sprinkling of fine sea salt

How to make nut, chia seed and raisin bars

Line a deep baking tray / cake pan with greaseproof paper (mine is 32cm long, 21cm wide and 5cm high, but use whatever you have available as long as it allows for a suitable depth for nut bars). I find it helps to grease the pan with butter or margarine to allow the paper to stick to it and stay flat and in place.

Heat up a large non-stick frying pan on a high heat, then add the cashew nuts and peanuts (or other nuts of your choice). As they start warming up, stir them frequently and as an oily sheen starts to appear, sprinkle them liberally with fine sea salt. Continue to stir frequently as they start to roast. I like the uneven roasting of doing this in a pan, where some are blackened in some parts and lightly golden in others, but it is a matter of personal preference / taste. For a more even roasting, you may wish to do this part in the oven.

While the nuts are roasting, melt the chocolate in the microwave (with the Callebaut chocolate I use, it takes about 2 minutes on high, stirring halfway through – different chocolate may behave differently though and to be on the safe side, you may want to do this more gently in a bain marie, with a bowl over a pan of hot water, letting the steam do the job).

Transfer nuts, raisins and chia seeds into a large mixing bowl and add the melted chocolate, stirring to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed, then transfer into your lined baking tray while still warm. Spread the mix out as evenly as possible and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.

Once the giant nut bar is well chilled and solid, take it out of the tray, remove the greaseproof paper and place it on a large chopping board. Using a large knife or cleaver, cut it into 14-16 nut bars. Some small pieces will simply break off, but that’s ok – don’t waste them. Stick them in a bowl and eat them as a snack 🙂

  • Nut, chia seed and raisin bars

Nut, chia seed and raisin bars – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Cacio e Pepe pasta

Linguine Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper) is a simple, yet delicious way to serve pasta.  It is a typical dish from Rome, and can be served with spaghetti, linguine, or even short pasta such as rigatoni.

On this occasion, I made Linguine Cacio e Pepe.

Linguine Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients – Linguine Cacio e Pepe for 4 people

  • 500g Linguine
  • 200g Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper
  • Drop of oil and fistful of salt for the pasta cooking water

Method

Put a large pan with water, a drop of oil and a fistful of salt on the hob and bring to the boil.  I usually advocate using the largest possible stockpot style pan for pasta cooking, but this recipe works best if you have very starchy water, so use a slightly smaller (but still ample) pan / less water than you usually would for pasta.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, stir after a minute or so, and occasionally during cooking, to ensure it doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, finely grate the pecorino cheese.  The key to this recipe is the cheese.  Make sure you use a good quality pecorino romano and that you grate it as finely as you can – this will enable you to create the creamy sauce.  If the cheese is too coarsely grated, it won’t go creamy and will clump instead.

Grind plenty of black pepper into the pecorino.  How much you use, will depend on taste, but you are ideally aiming for a speckled look to the cheese, and for a good peppery kick to the sauce.

Once the pasta is nearly cooked (about a minute before it’s done), take a bit of water out of the pan with a ladle and stir it into the cheese with a fork.  Add a bit at a time (half a ladle or less) and stir each time, until you achieve the desired creamy consistency.

Cacio e pepe - the creamy 'sauce' consistency
This is what you are aiming for with the pecorino, pepper and cooking water.

Once the pasta is cooked, nicely ‘al dente’, drain it and immediately stir it through the cheese.

Serve onto pasta bowls and, if you wish, add a bit more freshly-ground black pepper.

Cacio e pepe pasta.  Gloriously Simple.  Gloriously Good!