Pistachio pasto with artichoke heart, kale and white bean

Recently, I was thumbing through the cookbook of local Italian joint and Carroll Garden’s institution Frankies Spuntino, when I came across their irresistible-sounding Orecchiette with Pistachio recipe. As a nut lover, my interest was piqued. Their clever Sicilian-inspired recipe calls for sweet, rich, emerald green pistachios from Bronte near Mount Etna in Sicily, a somewhat prized commodity apparently, which are coarsely chopped, then scented with mint and blanketed over al dente orecchiette pasta.

This use of a nut as a dressing feels very inventive to me. Nuts, and particularly pistachios, carry so much flavour, so they lend themselves perfectly to spicing up sauces and dressings. For me, nuts are such a huge part of salad making – adding a handful to a salad effortlessly transforms the dish.

For my version of a pistachio dressing, you don’t need to hunt down precious nuts from Sicily. Phew! Any variety is fine. My dressing is part pesto, part paste - a pasto! - featuring coarsely ground nuts with mint, Chinese shallots and fennel seeds. It is quite a heady concoction but adds a delicious, robust finish to the artichoke hearts, pan-fried kale and white beans.

For ease and functionality, I’ve used store bought artichoke hearts in my recipe - the acidity of marinated artichokes delivers a refreshing zest to the nutty finish. If you are feeling patient and in the mood for some meditative time in your kitchen, try your hand at using hearts from fresh globe artichokes. It can sometimes be a handful, but the results are well worth it.


Artichoke heart, kale and cannellini beans with pistachio pesto

Toast pistachios and fennel seeds in a dry frypan, over medium-low heat. They are ready when they start to smell delicious! Vegans can omit the pecorino – just add a bit more salt to intensify flavours.

Gluten Free

  • 6 marinated artichoke hearts, sliced 
  • 3 cups kale leaves (from about ½ bunch kale)
  • 1 tin (about 250g) cannellini beans, drained
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • extra mint leaves, for serving
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper

Pistachio pasto

  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • 2 chinese shallots / scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 cloved garlic, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese (optional)

In a food processor, blender or in a mortar and pestle, ground the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Add the oil, mint, Chinese shallots, fennel seeds, garlic and blend/pound until just combined. Stir in the pecorino cheese. Taste and if, required, season with sea salt.

In a frying pan, add a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the artichoke slices and cook until they are slightly charred. When ready, remove the artichokes and set aside. In the same fry pan, add another glug of oil and add the kale leaves. Cook until the kale is wilted and some leaves are crispy. Remove the kale and add to the artichokes.

Add the drained cannellini beans to the artichokes and kale. Spoon over the pistachio pesto and fold through to coat the vegetables. Season with sea salt and black pepper. To serve, transfer the salad to a large serving platter, drizzle with olive oil and scatter over the pecorino cheese and mint.

SALADHetty McKinnon