Italian Delicacies: Bronte Pistachios

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A tasty delicacy enveloped in a light, bright green hue, the Bronte Pistachio is good on its own, or when used in recipes savoury and sweet. Whether fresh or dried, it is perhaps the most precious ingredient in Sicilian cuisine, and symbolises its town of origins, Bronte, in the Province of Catania. Indeed, the pistachio is so important to Bronte’s economy that it has long been graced with the nickname "green gold."

Of History and Tradition

The pistachio actually has several names in Sicilian dialect, including scornabeccospaccasassi and fastuca. The pistachio plant can live between 200 and 300 years, and thrives above all in Bronte. While the nut’s most ancient origins lie in ancient Persia, that grown in Bronte is distinguished by very unique characteristics – even in comparison to other Sicilian pistachios – and is thus known as pistacia vera. Such may very well be attributed the fact that pistachios in Bronte are cultivated in volcanic soil, on the scorching terrain of Mount Etna and the Nebrodes. Here, the terroir seems to favour the resinous plant, from its thick foliage that necessitates little water, down to its ability to cling to the steepest and craggiest mountain slopes (thanks to its knotty branches and deep roots). The pistachio harvest takes place every two years between late August and early September; it is a truly magical event that involves the entire population of Bronte: women, men, the old and the young ascend the heights to pick and shell this splendid fruit, one by one. An almost-sacred rite, the harvest reaps a triumph of brilliant colour, from intense green to violet-red, that conquers both aesthetic and palate with its particular brand of Sicilian magic. 

The P.D.O. Label

Given its singular traits, its nutritional and organoleptic properties, as well as its gorgeous taste and smell, the Bronte Pistachio obtained European Union P.D.O. certification in 2009. EU tutelage establishes the rules and regulations regarding the exact area of cultivation (i.e. the Sicilian Comuni of Bronte, Adrano and Biancavilla), and production, harvesting and labeling practices - thus protecting not only product but consumer. 

An Itinerary of Taste

A trip through Sicily’s far east, running from the Messina Strait and along the flourishing sceneries of Etna (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Catania, should not bypass a traipse through the green-gilded landscape of Bronte, where this huge component of Sicilian enogastronomy is revealed in all its facets. Many Italophiles already know and love cannoli, the Sicilians’ pride and joy – and also prepared with pistachio and ricotta, of course. Still, a seemingly-limitless range of sweets and pastries has been created on this one magnificent isle: pistachio gelato, torroni, the bucellato – using chocolate and Sicilian almonds – and marzapan. As for savoury dishes, travelers in Sicily should taste pistachio pesto (yes!) and other pistachio-infused sauces that often top charcuterie and red meats. Finally, the grandest celebration of them all is the Sagra del Pistacchio, held every September in Bronte and drawing thousands of tourists from around the world. 

Kale and Pistachio Pesto Spaghetti

Kale adds a rich earthy note and brilliant green colour to this hearty pesto. This makes about 1-1 1/2 cups pesto, which would also be good on fish, chicken, pork, or steak.


Kosher salt

1 large bunch kale, stemmed and leaves torn (about 1 pound)

10 ounces whole wheat spaghetti

2 tablespoons roasted salted pistachios

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan1

 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving

Freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add the kale to the boiling water and cook, stirring, until just wilted but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to the ice water (keep the water boiling). When cool, drain well and squeeze out as much water as possible. Coarsely chop the kale.Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and then drain the pasta.While the pasta cooks, pulse the pistachios and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the kale and parsley and pulse until very finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add the Parmesan, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and pulse to incorporate.Toss the pasta with the pesto, adding a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water if it seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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