Bre Graham: My Italian prawn and pistachio tagliolini recipe
This recipe is an extract from Table for Two, the new cookbook from Bre Graham
There is a pathway that runs along the coast of the Ligurian Sea, near the Italian city of Genoa, named after Anita Garibaldi, a Brazilian republican revolutionary and wife of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
It is said to be one of the most romantic walks in the world. It’s also a pathway that I’ve spent a lot of time on, eating gelato, jumping off rocks into the sea, and walking between our hotel and whichever restaurant we’ve chosen to eat in, I first visited this part of Italy on a work trip and have returned every year since, on or around my birthday in August.
There’s something so special about this stretch of coastline; sometimes I think I love it so much because it reminds me of where I grew up in Sydney, with its rock pools and coastal walks, but really the main reason I return is for the food – Ligurian basil, Ligurian olive oil and seafood from the Ligurian Sea are second to none.
On one holiday for my birthday, I did my research and booked a restaurant recommended to me by a local guide, who had helped me as a translator on my first trip. With my broken Italian, I booked over the phone and didn’t think about it again until we were getting dressed for dinner.
Google Maps told me it was a 20 minute stroll down the Anita Garibaldi pathway along the ocean. When we got to the restaurant, we saw what can only be described as a shack painted to look like an old German pub – not quite the authenticity or beauty I was looking for in a fancy birthday dinner.
Since we had booked unfashionably early, we were the only ones there and, before the menus arrived, we muttered to each other that maybe I’d made a mistake and it was one of the stunning seafront restaurants that we had just walked past.
But once the menu arrived and I saw a pasta dish with prawns and pistachios – a Sicilian slant on Genoa’s famous pesto – I knew we were in the right place. Now, before I even book flights to Genoa, I make sure I book a table at this restaurant.
This is my re-creation of that dish, which is packed full of good olive oil, basil and perfumed pistachios. I use ready-made pistachio butter, but you can make your own by blitzing roughly a cupful of whole nuts in a food processor until smooth and creamy.
Paired with delicate strands of tagliolini pasta, this dish is something special.
• 250g (9oz) dried tagliolini, or other long, thin pasta such as angel hair
• 1 huge handful of fresh basil leaves
• 2 tbsp pistachio butter
• 60ml (4 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp sea salt
• juice of 1 lemon
• 200g (7oz) raw prawns (shrimp), peeled and de-veined
• 1 tsp salted butter
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed freshly ground black pepper
• Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water following the packet instructions. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out a mugful of the water and save.
• While the pasta cooks, in a blender or food processor, blitz the basil leaves, pistachio butter, olive oil, salt and lemon juice until smooth.
• Cut each prawn in half lengthways so that when you twirl the delicate strands of pasta, you’ll be able to get both prawn and pasta on your fork. Melt the butter in a sautépan on a medium heat, add the garlic and prawns and cook for 3–4 minutes, until the prawns turn pink.
• Pour a little of the pasta cooking water into the basil and pistachio mix and blitz again until combined.
• Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan with the basil and pistachio mix and toss together with the prawns and a little more of the pasta water, if needed. Pile the pasta high on two plates to serve and season with black pepper.
Table for Two, the new cookbook from Bre Graham is available now