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SD’s Top Chef Recipes: Francesco Bonsi’s Pistachio Pesto

Cucina Migrante's co-founder and chef shares his pesto recipe to toss onto your favorite pastas, sandwiches or proteins
Courtesy of Cucina Migrante
Chef Bonsi pesto

Chef Bonsi pesto

Courtesy of Cucina Migrante

“There was a moment that the food industry realized that the green, and the flavor of pistachios, was sexy and appealing for consumers,” says Chef Francesco Bonsi discussing how the nut has been used in Mediterranean and Arabic dishes for centuries, it only became popular in U.S. cooking within the last century. “Pistachios are quite delicious and taste like no other food. [They are] a very versatile nut that works well in savory or sweet dishes.”

As co-founder of Cucina Migrante in Golden Hill, chef Francesco and his team run farm-and-cooking-oriented pop-up dinners, private chef services, and culinary tours out of the bohemian villa. His Mediterranean-inspired fare is thanks to his Sicilian roots, specifically from Mount Etna where there is a large production of wild pistachios.

“In that area of Sicily, it is very common using pistachios in pastas, pizzas, gelato and many traditional pastries. So I grow up eating pistachios as a snack but also in desserts (cannoli, cassata, etc) and in delicious street food such as arancini.”

When we asked him to share one of his personal recipes for readers to make, it’s no surprise that it involved this small but flavorful ingredient. He suggests locals will love this recipe because it’s easy to make and California’s wealth of pistachio producers means you can purchase high-quality pistachios at a reasonable price.

“This special pesto is best eaten straight away. But can be kept in mason jars in the fridge for a week,” says chef Francesco. “You can play with the amount of ingredients until you can find your perfect pesto experience. You can add your favorite hot sauce or crushed red pepper if you like to spice it up a bit.”

To make chef Francesco’s recipe, follow the steps below and enjoy:

Chef Francesco Bonsi’s Pistachio Pesto


1 cup of shelled raw pistachios

Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil

Half a cup of Pecorino Romano cheese

Half a cup of basil leaves

1 small garlic clove or less

A teaspoon of salt

A teaspoon of black pepper

3 ice cubes

Half a cup of mineral water

1 shallot


1). Add all the ingredients, except for the shallot, to a blender. Blend at medium speed you reach the texture you like. You can add more water and or olive oil as you desire to get the perfect consistency.

2). In a skillet, add two spoons of olive oil or real butter and the finely diced shallot. Cook on low heat until the shallot is translucent and soft. Add the pistachio pesto and stir everything for about a minute.

3). Add pesto to your favorite style of pasta and enjoy!

By Nicolle Monico

Nicolle Monico is an award-winning writer and the managing digital editor for San Diego Magazine with more than 15 years of experience in media including Outside Run, JustLuxe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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