Recipes of the week: Mint pistachio pesto & spaghetti with mussels

Chef Ainsley Harriott shares two great Italian recipes he discovered while filming Street Food, his new food and travel series.

Mist pistachio pesto on bruschetta

“I made this delicious pesto for my Sicilian culinary guide Salvatori in an old bar in the seedy backstreets of Palermo whilst drinking some local red wine. He said not only was he impressed, his mama would be too – and she makes the best pesto in the world! You can make this with a pestle and mortar (the best way) or a mini food processor – although it’s best to use the pulse button to keep the pesto nice and rustic.”

Serves 4-6 as a snack

1 small garlic clove, peeled
50g shelled pistachio
15g pine nuts
4-5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
1 small bunch fresh mint
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (good quality)
6-8 slices of bruschetta (toasted sourdough bread) drizzled with olive oil

1. Pound the garlic in a pestle and mortar, then add the pistachio, pine nuts and peppercorns and continue to pound until coarsely ground (this will take a few minutes).
2. Tear the mint leaves into smallish pieces add to the mortar along with the Parmesan and pound again into a thick paste.
3. Add a little of the extra-virgin olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons to start with) and then mix in more until you have the desired consistency. Check seasoning, then spread onto the bruschetta and serve immediately.

Spaghetti with mussels, tomatoes and olives

“The key to the success of this dish is the quality of the ingredients, so choose them with care and you will not be disappointed. The sprig of basil is added in to flavour the sauce but then gets removed before serving, as it will have done its job. Use a little extra torn basil to finish the dish – can there be anything more perfect?”

Pasta with mussels and basil (Shutterstock)
Pasta with mussels and basil (Shutterstock)

Serves 4

350g spaghetti
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1kg fresh live mussels, cleaned
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
3 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
100g small ripe cherry tomatoes
Handful halved black olives, stones removed
1 large sprig fresh basil, plus extra torn leaves to garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until ‘al dente’.
2. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Tip in the mussels and cover with a lid, then cook over a high heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking until all the mussels have opened (discard any that do not).
3. Reserve about 12 nice plump mussels in their shells for garnish, and remove the meat from the remainder. Place in a bowl and strain in the cooking juices, then stir in the garlic and parsley and set aside until needed.
4. Wipe out the sauté pan and use it to heat the rest of the olive oil. Add the anchovy fillets and mash down to a paste, then tip in the cherry tomatoes and olives with the basil sprig. Sauté for a couple of minutes until warmed through.
5. Meanwhile, drain the spaghetti and quickly refresh under cold running water. Tip into the tomato and olive mixture and then fold in the reserved mussel meat and cooking liquid.
6. Finally, tip in the reserved mussels in their shells and toss until evenly combined, then season to taste. Remove the cooked basil and divide among warmed pasta bowls, then garnish with fresh torn basil leaves to serve.