Macaroni & Fontina Cheese
with Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce

Pistachios are a beloved nut of Italian culture. Popularly used in desserts such as Cannoli and Ice Cream, pistachios often in history made there way into savory dishes as well. Crushed Pistachios make a wonderful blanket for grilled beef as well as lamb, a very popular way to utilize this rich and tasty nut.

A year ago I incorporated them into a pesto dish to go along with seared lamb and Buccatini, it was a wonderful addition and with a little playing around my Pistachio Pesto Cream sauce was born. I keep Pistachio Pesto on hand as often as I can. It freezes well and when needed for a sauce it quickly defrosts within a few hours.

My kids love having pasta shells made into Macaroni and Cheese, so with a variation on the American version, alternating Cheddar with Fontina cheese and adding Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce this layered baked pasta dish makes for a favorite mid week meal.


Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce *recipes follow
16 oz. Fontina cheese shredded
4 oz. Parmesan Cheese grated
1 lb. Durum Semolina Shells

1 cup pistachio’s
1 cup olive oil
10 – 12 large basil leaves
¾ cup white wine
¾ cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs. Chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 ½ tsp. fresh squeezed lemon
2 -3 tablespoons water to thin out as needed
½ tsp. salt
Dash fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a small dry skillet, toast pistachios for around a minute or two just to release oils. Don’t let the pistachio’s burn.

In a food processor, add pistachios and olive oil, pulse on low until pistachios start emulsifying with oil but still having texture. Add chopped basil leaves and continue to pulse. Add wine and Gorgonzola cheese, pulse till well incorporated. Mixture will still have good texture. Add garlic clove, oregano leaves and lemon juice. Process to mix well. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed just so the pesto is not too thick. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to taste and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to your desired taste.

3 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Olive oil
½ onion minced
½ shallot minced
2 Tbs. Flour
3 cups simmering hot milk (skin removed)
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbs. White wine
3 cups Pistachio Pesto (recipe above)

Melt butter and olive oil on medium low heat. Add onion and shallots, cook till golden and translucent. Butter should be sizzling. Put heat on medium low. Dust onion garlic mix with flour and stir constantly till mix starts to brown. Stirring with a whisk, add 2 cups of hot milk in a slow stream constantly stirring and loosening mix from bottom of the pan. If you continue to whisk the mix will be very even textured. When cream begins to thicken again, add another cup of hot milk (this should equal 3 cups in all).
Add 3 tablespoons of wine and around I ½ teaspoons of salt to taste. Stir constantly and bring to a simmer again and let thicken to a cream soup consistency. Add 3 cups of the pistachio pesto to the cream sauce. Stir to incorporate well. At this stage it should be plenty thick.
*If you want it thicker, uncovered reduce heat to low and let simmer till it reduces to the consistency you like.


Putting it all together
Cook pasta till aldente. Be sure to salt your water.
Drain Pasta. On the bottom of a baking dish pour ¼ cup of sauce, add ½ of the cooked shells. Pour some more of the sauce on top. Then layer with Fontina cheese. Repeat by adding more pasta, sauce and cheese till pasta is used up. Top it off with Pistachio Pesto Cream sauce, Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 4oo° oven till bubbly and cheese is melted and golden on top, around 15 minutes. Enjoy with crusty bread and a salad.

Hope you enjoy!
Buon Appetitio,


girlichef said...

Creamy, gooey goodness! This looks so good...(and cool foodbuzz scraper)! Anything served with crusty bread is good by me :)

The Duo Dishes said...

Pistachio pesto cream sauce is the attention grabber! Now that is one rich, delicious mac n cheese.

The Blonde Duck said...

We're macaroni twinkies today!

The Food Hunter said...

This looks amazing. I love both fontina and pistachios. I've clipped this to make soon.

lisaiscooking said...

Your pesto with pistachios sound incredible, and then turned into pesto cream it must be out of this world! Looks great.

Sue said...

What a fantastic idea to use pistachios! In all my variations of pesto - walnuts with or without pine nuts, parsley with or without basil, spinach...whatever...I've never thought to use pistachios. Probably because I can never find them shelled. But I have to try it!

5 Star Foodie said...

I love this macaroni! Fontina cheese is one of my favorites and your pistachio pesto cream sauce sounds fantastic! Excellent recipe!

Bellini Valli said...

Woah you are speaking my language!!!!!Love this homey twist on one of my favourites.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Pistacchio Pesto sounds perfect, Laurie! I am going to have to try making it!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I love using pistachio's in pesto, and fontina is so creamy and good, add that to some pasta, and I'm a very happy girl!;)