Bronte Pistachio, Sicily Green Gold
Recognized as the world’s finest, the Bronte pistachio thrives on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. A unique terroir that gives it its distinctive taste and aroma.
Pistachio: The Slow-Growing Mediterranean Marvel
The pistachio, a fruit of the true pistachio tree (Pistacia vera L.), is a slow-growing shrub that thrives in the Mediterranean climate. It takes a decade for the tree to bear its first fruits, which are small, pale green nuts encased in a shell that splits open when ripe. This Mediterranean marvel is a culinary delight, appreciated worldwide.
The Pistachio: A Legacy from the Arab World
The pistachio’s journey to Sicily began between the 7th and 9th centuries, brought by the Arabs following the fall of the Roman Empire, crumbling under the weight of barbarian invasions. This Arab legacy has left an indelible imprint on the Sicilian dialect, with ‘frastuca’ and ‘frastucara’, the local terms for pistachio and pistachio tree, tracing their roots back to the Arabic ‘fristach’ and ‘frastucara’. This linguistic echo is a testament to the enduring influence of the pistachio’s rich heritage.
Bronte’s Green Pistachio
The Pistacia vera, a variety grafted from the Neapolitan cultivar onto the terebinth pistachio tree, thrives in the province of Catania, specifically in Bronte, Adrano, and Biancavilla.
The industry comprises nearly 3,000 producers who cultivate 2,800 hectares at the foot of Mount Etna. The harvest of Bronte’s pistachio is a hands-on affair, given the steep and rugged terrain that makes machine access challenging.
Indeed, the pistachio trees of Bronte have a unique growth environment. They flourish in a lava flow dating back to 1646, located at an altitude between 400 and 900 meters above sea level. This unique environment contributes to the distinct flavor profile of the Bronte pistachio.
Bronte Pistachio: A Protected Designation of Origin
The Bronte pistachio boasts nutritional and qualitative characteristics that far surpass those from America or the Middle East. This distinction is attributed to the mineral richness of its terroir. Indeed, this territory is steeped in lava and continuously fertilized by volcanic ashes, resulting in fruits of an emerald green color with powerful and captivating aromas.
The value of Bronte’s pistachios is not solely due to their unique taste. Indeed, they are also rare, accounting for less than 1% of global production, between 2,500 and 3,500 tons per year. Their harvest only takes place in odd years due to a physiological peculiarity of the pistachio trees. The trees thus alternate between “fertile years” and “non-fertile years”. The buds are therefore sacrificed every other year to prevent them from being attacked by insects. Moreover, a good harvest also depends on the skill and intuition of the farmers.
The industry, which excludes any chemical treatment, obtained a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 2009. Thus, only fruits that meet a stringent specification can benefit from the denomination Pistacchio di Bronte D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or PDO). A Slow Food Sentinel also ensures the preservation and promotion of the Bronte pistachio as a food heritage.
The Bronte Pistachio in the Kitchen
The green pistachio of Bronte holds a significant place in Sicilian and Italian gastronomy. Its sweet and highly aromatic nature makes it a star ingredient in a multitude of recipes. From ice cream, granita, cassata to cannoli, the pistachio is a common presence in pastries and cakes. But its culinary influence doesn’t stop at sweets. It also graces many savory dishes, such as pasta, arancini, and even charcuterie like mortadella.
A Sicilian variant of the traditional pesto recipe calls for the use of the Bronte pistachio. In a mortar, crush 250g of shelled pistachios with a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Once the pistachios are crushed, add olive oil and continue to grind until you achieve a smooth paste with a few remaining chunks of crushed pistachios. This results in a delightful seasoning for busiate, a type of twisted Sicilian pasta that beautifully envelops the sauce.
Busiate with Pistachio PestoCourse: Principal, PâtesCuisine: ItalienDifficulty: Facile
Busiate is a type of pasta typical to Sicily, traditionally served with a pistachio pesto. I’ve added a delicious tartare of Gambero Rosso di Mazara to this dish.
- Busiate Dough
300 g of Durum wheat semolina
150 ml of Water
- Pistachio Pesto
250 g of Shelled Bronte Pistachios
1 pinch of Coarse Salt
50 g of Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (optional)
- Red Prawns tartare
4 Red Prawns
- On a work surface, pour the flour and make a well. Add water and start incorporating the flour with a fork. Knead by hand until you get a smooth and homogeneous dough. Let it rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- In a mortar, crush the shelled pistachios with a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Once the pistachios are crushed, add olive oil and continue to pound. Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and mix well to incorporate. This last step is optional as it is a seafood pasta. Set aside.
- Remove the tails and heads from the shrimp (Gambero Rosso) and discard the intestine. Make a tartare with the flesh. Season with oil and pepper and keep cool. The shells and heads (without the eyes) can be kept for making bisque in other recipes.
- On a floured work surface, take a piece of dough and form a roll about 4-5 cm long. Using a “ferretto”, roll the dough to create the typical spiral shape (see video). Repeat this operation until all the dough is used up.
- In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the busiate. When they rise to the surface, add them to a large bowl with the pistachio pesto. Add a ladle of pasta cooking water, mix well to bind the pasta with the sauce.
- Plate the pasta using a ring mold (see video). Form quenelles of tartare and place them on the busiate. Add some crushed pistachios. Buon appetito!