Bucatini (or maccheroncelli) with Pistachio Sauce

When we were in Italy this June for our wedding/honeymoon we not only ate well, drank too well and gained weight, but we took many food risks. The best nights of food seemed to be the nights when the menus were only in Italian and we forgot our little translation book back at the B&B. Come to think of it, our translation book kind of sucked. There were probably 30 times we searched for words and they weren’t in there. Anyways, when we woke up on the first morning of our honeymoon on the Island of Elba (off of Tuscany – yes, this is where Napoleon was sent to live in exile… send me to exile if that’s where I’m gonna live!) and there were dark skies and light rain, we decided to sack off the pool or beach and take a ride around the island. Even though the Island isn’t that big (only 86 square miles – thanks Encyclopedia Britannica) it’s extremely hilly (or mountainous, depending on what you consider to be a hill or a mountain) so it takes a long time to get from one end of the island to the other. It’s a beautiful drive along the coast of Elba, up and down the various mountains. We decided to go south along the coast from our hotel at Capo Sant’ Andrea to the southeastern coastal town of Capoliveri. After various stops in a few small villages, we wound up, down and sideways along the coast and ended up in the adorable town of Capoliveri. It was actually a blessing in disguise that the weather was kind of crappy because the town was much quieter than it would have been if it was sunny. We were starving and it was almost that scary time of 2.30/3PM where restaurants in Italy stop serving lunch. We just happend to find this amazing ‘slow food’ restaurant called “Summertime”. Usually I’d be wary of going to a restaurant in another country that’s named something in English, but we were so hungry and I saw the words “Slow Food” that we quickly decided on staying. The menu was only in Italian but there was one word that stood out on the menu that made me salivate: pistachio. I didn’t care how it was prepared, I love pistachios so I ordered it. What was placed in front of me a half hour later ended up being my favorite meal throughout our three weeks in Italy.

Here is a picture of the meal at Summertime:

Recently, Jonny and I were looking through our pictures and I saw the one of the meal I had in Capoliveri and decided to try and recreate it.

Here’s a picture of our recreation:

It turned out great!! We didn’t have a recipe, but what I made was pretty close to the real thing. The main difference is the pistachios – we used white pistachios, hence the difference in color. This recipe I’ve come to learn is Sicilian in it’s roots where they grow and use them often in cooking. The Sicilian pistachio is much greener, stronger and sharper in flavor. Have you ever tasted the pistachio gelato in Italy? You’ll know what I mean about the flavor being different if you have.

I’d love someone else to try this recipe at home. It’s super easy (except the hour it takes to shell those freaking pistachios!!) and it’s extremely rich and filling. You could use the sauce on any type of pasta, but I love it on a long, thick pasta. The flavor may not be pleasing to everyone due to it’s sweet and saltiness, but to me it was an extremely eye-opening and surprising dish.



  • 1 lb. box of bucatini (you can also use any other long, thick pasta)
  • about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of whole, shelled pistachios PLUS a large handfull, roughly chopped, reserved for the garnish
  • 6-8 anchovies (I’m telling you, I hated anchovies until about 6 months ago… the saltiness of them make this dish. You can omit the extra 4 I ask you to add at the end if you really don’t like the flavor of anchovies, but please try using them when making the sauce)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (we love garlic, so we usually add more than necessary)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of toasted breadcrumbs
  • grated parmigiano reggiano
  • one anisette-flavored biscotti (this was the ‘secret ingredient’ I figured out in the dish I ate in Italy)

How to Make the Dish:

  1. Boil water for your pasta – make sure it’s salted heavily and you put a bit of olive oil in it too!
  2. Dice up your onion and chop your garlic (don’t worry too much about the size cause your gonna end up blitzing it)
  3. Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan
  4. Saute your onion until translucent, add your garlic and saute until soft (about 1-2 minutes)
  5. Whip out your handy mixer/food processor. Add your sauteed onions and garlic in there along with all your pistachios (not the ones I asked you to reserve for the garnish). Add a half of cup of olive oil to start. BLITZ IT – pulse it if you want. You’ll want it to resemble a thick sauce… almost like a pesto. If you need to add more olive oil so that it’s not exactly a paste, but more like a thick sauce, please do.
  6. Add your bucatini to the boiling water and cook till al dente (I’ve recently figured out that if you subtract one to two minutes from the cooking directions on the box of pasta, you’ll almost always get perfectly al dente pasta!)
  7. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax for a few minutes
  8. Rough chop those extra handful of pistachios
  9. Heat up another pan and lightly toast your breadcrumbs – reserve on the side after they are toasted
  10. Add your pistachio sauce back to the sautee pan and put heat on low-medium. When the sauce is warming, add 3 anchovies. Watch them melt into to sauce and stir.
  11. When your pasta is finished cooking, add the pasta with a slotted spoon to your warming pistachio sauce. Toss in a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.
  12. Add a pinch of salt if necessary (taste first, those ‘chovies can be mighty salty as is) and pepper, a decent handful of parmigiano cheese and the toasted breadcrumbs. Rough chop 3-4 extra anchovies and add them to the pasta. TOSS the pasta.
  13. Plate your pasta. Sprinkle some of the roughly chopped pistachios on top and then using a cheese grater, grate some of your anisette flavored biscotti on top. VOILA!! Enjoy with a nice bottle of vino.

And that’s it! A rich, satisfying dish.

11 thoughts on “Bucatini (or maccheroncelli) with Pistachio Sauce

  1. I’ll have to try this out; now I see what you mean about the difference in the pistachio color, and I think you have a very good point. The green ones look much more appetizing. I’m intrigued by the addition of the biscotti as well. Thanks for leaving your comment on my site! Looking forward to browsing through your blog. One more thing–my husband and I also went to Elba a few years ago, and enjoyed it very much! Nice coincidence. Congrats on your wedding/honeymoon!

  2. Hi, artichokeheart! Thanks so much for the comment. I love that you’ve been to Elba…I feel like it’s this hidden treasure in Italy w/ Americans (are you American?). The biscotti in this recipe really does add something to the dish. I can’t quite describe it, but the whole sweet and salty thing is going on which just amps it to another level. Thanks again for the comment…I’ll check out your site (shameless plug for you b/c your link didn’t show up) aritchokeheart.wordpress.com

  3. Hi,

    You might want to try an Indian grocery for shelled pistachios!

    I plan to get some later and make this dish. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


  4. great! tell us how it is. i need to fix something on the recipe. these were the days when we first started to blog and i didn’t really re-read. I noticed I forgot to add the measurement of pisachios!

  5. Well though I live in the UK now I have been probably more than 15 times at Elba and let me congratulate you. Capo Sant’Andrea is very pitoresque and remote and diving from the white rocks it’s great. You also managed to land in probably the best restaurant in Capoliveri.
    Funny enough when we went there last time (2005 I guess) we had exact the same pasta.
    Pistachio from Sicily is very tipical, the known village is called Bronte, and if you like you can try their recipe as well:
    Ingredients: one bunch of basil, one bunch of parsley, 50 grams pistachios, 20 grams pine nuts, 30 grams toasted almonds, olive oil, 30 grams parmesan, salt and pepper.
    In a blender, puree the pistachios, pine nuts, toasted almonds, parmesan and a handful each of parsley and basil. Add as much olive oil as needed, along with salt and pepper. Blend until it forms a smooth paste.
    This pesto goes well with penne pasta, spaghetti and gnocchi.

  6. Thanks from prof chef.
    Lovely recipe, inspiration to me.
    Thanks for your effort.
    shall let you know how is this dish doing in my resto.
    Ancora una volta, grazzie bene.

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