Remember the pistachio ice cream of our childhood? It came in big tubs and had a light, almost flourescent green hue. It was very sweet and tasted more like almonds than pistachios, although it didn't taste much like almonds either if we are really being honest.
Pistachio ice cream, or pistachio gelato, is a different world nowadays because Italians take their pistachios very seriously. It is a darker, more natural shade of green, almost a sage green.The not-too-sweet, a-touch-salty incredibly creamy custard is usually interspersed with chopped pistachios that add texture and flavor. It is often made with pistacchi di Bronte, the best the country has to offer although in some gelaterie you can choose between Sicilian, Californian and Iranian pistachios. I wasn't kidding.
I recently received two large packs of pistachios as a gift: my sister-in-law had been to Bronte and my father-in-law brought back some amazing Iranian pistachios from the Middle East. Everytime I open my cupboard and see them lying there I feel a pang of guilt, because I still haven't used them.
So finally, a couple of weeks ago, I made some pistachio paste. It is actually just the pistachio butter from the linked recipe with a little added sugar (no butter), so follow the indications for making the butter.
And then it just sat there.
I will be honest: I am scared of both the pistachios and the paste. I am trying to loose some weight and pistachios are just one of those things I don't want to be around. I know they are nutritious and full of healthy fat and that I could have them in my breakfast granola or yogurt or as a snack. But you know how it is... you start with one and before you know it you have had about fifty.
As a result making gelato, my first instinct, is out of the question, because there is NO.WAY I can resist that.
And then yesterday, on a whim, I finally settled for pudding. I though it would be a good solution for the kids and not as much a temptation for me. Little did I know...
So pudding it was. I started surfing the web for a recipe and was astonished at the quantity of dessert recipes I found that used packaged pistachio pudding base. It seems that, unlike the ice cream of the '70's, green pistachio pudding full of food coloring and goodness knows what else, is still very popular, at least abroad. Who knew?
Then I finally came across a recipe on Joy the Baker that actually used homemade pistachio paste.
I'm thinking next time I can avoid the butter, because really, there are enough healthy oils in the nuts.
I unfortunately could only have a spoonful from each child (you know, just for equality's sake) and was really blown away by the outcome. It was silky and smooth, not too sweet and full of flavor.
Milk, eggs, sugar, pistachios and a thickening agent... that is all you will need. This is pudding the way your grandma would have made it... the flavor is incredible, the color is natural (if you want it even greener, just get rid of the peels) and it took only 15 minutes (although I did make the pistachio paste beforehand)!
Pistachios are pretty easy to find anywhere, and any upscale store sells pistachio paste or butter if you are too lazy to make it, so you have no excuse! Throw away that package of pistachio pudding mix and try this.
Ingredients (4 medium-sized or 6 small dessert bowls)
4 tbsp pistachio paste (this batch had some sugar in it but no butter)
2 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
(2 tbsp butter)
Spoon pistachio paste into a saucepan, pour in the milk, whisk it until combined and let it heat through (not boil).
While milk is heating, whisk together granulated sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth. When the milk is hot, ladle some of it into the egg mixture and whisk quickly so the egg does not cook. Return the milky egg mixture into the saucepan and mix constantly on low to medium heat until it turns thick, preferably using a heatproof spoon or spatula so it doesn't burn. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter (I may skip this step next time as the pistachio paste already contains enough oils) and vanilla extract. If you want a really smooth pudding (and just in case there are any cooked egg bits in it), pass the pudding through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.
Spoon the pudding into the bowls, cover with plastic wrap making sure it touches the surface of the pudding (to avoid it turning dark and forming a film) and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
If you like, garnish with some chopped or whole pistachios before serving.