Just in case you didn’t know, pistachio paste is hard to find. Sure you can order it online (and it can cost you a pretty penny) but when you’re determined to make something in the kitchen, having to wait days for a key ingredient to be delivered to your door just won’t do.
The best pistachio paste is said to come from Sicily, made of the prized pistachios of the Bronte region (near Mt. Etna). They are said to have a more prominent taste due to the volcanic soil they grow on and with limited yield they are not exported in large quantities. I regret not taking advantage of a trip to Sicily in 2005 for a taste of this local specialty, or maybe even taking a few jars home–they weren’t even on my foodie radar to be honest. I packed my suitcase with bags of dried porcini mushrooms instead.
You might wonder what has had me obsessed with pistachio paste. For weeks I have wanted to make pistachio gelato–well, years really–but none of my local specialty stores carried pistachio paste. One buyer for a local gourmet market said that he occasionally carries it during the holidays and would I please remind him about it later in the year–I couldn’t wait that long. I had to take matters into my own hands.
So I made my own using local pistachios. I have made almond paste before and it was ridiculously easy. I guessed that pistachio paste would be manageable, too. Besides, this recipe has a French pedigree. Pierre Hermé, the Picasso of Pastry (according to French Vogue), makes his own. All of Mr. Hermé’s recipes I’ve ever tried have been nothing short of excellent so I had a lot of faith this one wouldn’t disappoint either.
Though my paste didn’t turn out as smooth as I would have liked I still consider it a winner. It won’t win any beauty contests either but I still couldn’t resist eating chunks of it right out of the bowl. If you love pistachios, this pistachio paste will win you over.
As for the gelato that prompted all of this? Stay tuned…
- 200 grams shelled pistachios
- 50 grams almond meal
- 100 grams sugar
- 2.8 cl water (roughly 1 oz)
- A few drops of almond extract
- Using a spice grinder (my choice), mortar and pestle or a blender, grind the pistachios until smooth.
- Transfer the ground pistachios in a large bowl and mix in the almond meal
- Add the almond extract. Make sure to only add one or two drops.
- In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat until the temperature reaches 115-120 degrees C, stirring constantly.
- Immediately pour the sugar/water mixture into the nut mixture and mix quickly to prevent the sugar from crystalizing.
- While mixing the mixture to form a paste (kneading with your hands is best), you may have to add more water in order to achieve a marzipan-like texture. Add only 1 teaspoon at a time. I ended up adding 3 teaspoons to achieve the desired results.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. Freeze for longest shelf life.
- Makes about 12 ounces of paste.