Perk up sautéed chicken by topping it with a Sicilian inspired savory pistachio herb sauce. Perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal, the olive oil based sauce, similar to pesto or salsa verde, also makes a delicious, healthy topping for fish or grilled summer vegetables.
Italy is well known for its flavor packed, fresh herb sauces that are used as accompaniments to perk up dishes such boiled meats, grilled fish, vegetables and pastas. One of the most famous is Genovese pesto made by pounding basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle.
The island of Sicily also has several well known herb sauces. Salmorglio is a traditional sauce made with a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and oregano. Sarsa virdi, also known as salsa verde or green sauce, is a semi liquid sauce made from anchovies, vinegar, garlic, onions, parsley and capers. Pesto alla Trapanese is made with basil, almonds, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Another pesto from Sicily is Pesto di pistacchio made with roasted pistachios, basil, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and grated cheese, mixed until it is the consistency of a thick cream.
For a quick weeknight meal, I like to serve a simple sautéed boneless breast of chicken topped with a sauce made from fresh herbs for added flavor and moisture. Recently I decided to make an herb sauce similar to the Sicilian pesto di pistacchio but without cheese and with a thinner consistency similar to the island’s salsa verde. In the recipe that I am sharing with you, I used a combination of high quality extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, red pepper flakes and chopped toasted pistachios. If you wish, you can change the flavor profile and make it your own by adjusting the amount and combination of fresh herbs you use. I loved the richness that the pistachios added to the herb sauce but you can also use pine nuts, almonds or hazel nuts, if you prefer.
Chicken With Pistachio Herb Sauce
Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Pistachio Herb Sauce
- 1/4 c. pistachio nuts
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste
Toast the pistachios in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until just golden brown. Watch carefully as they can easily burn. Once brown, remove from the pan and let cool. When cool, chop the nuts by hand into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over very low heat. Add the garlic and simmer for 1 minute to soften. Add the pistachio nuts and let simmer for 1 minute. Remove oil for heat and add the herbs and seasonings. Let the mixture rest so that the herbs infuse the olive oil with their flavors. Just before serving, add in the lemon juice and taste for additional seasoning.
This is a very simple sauce so it is important to choose quality ingredients,
I suggest hand chopping the herbs and pistachios to have control over the final texture of the sauce.
Add the lemon juice to the sauce just before serving to keep the bright colors of the sauce.
If you are using this sauce on fish or grilled vegetables, you might want to add a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest to the sauce.Notes From The Kitchen
Sautéed Boneless Breast of Chicken
- 2 (4 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
Place the chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound just enough to even out the thickness. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil then season well with salt and pepper. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat. Place the chicken, smooth side down, in the skillet and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown. (If you have a cooking weight, it will help with even browning). Turn the chicken breast over and cook until done, depending on the thickness about another 3 minutes. Plate the chicken and top with some of the pistachio herb sauce.
My husband and I have yet to visit Sicily where pistachios have been part its culinary traditions for hundred of years. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that part of Italy someday. In the meantime, I will continue to make this pistachio herb sauce and other recipes that include pistachios. Not only is the sauce delicious but pistachios are considered a very healthy nut. Did you know that two ounces of pistachios have more potassium than a banana and as much fiber as a cup of cooked Broccoli? They are high in minerals, and unsaturated fat that can help keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check. Pistachios contain the highest levels of zeaxanthin and lutein among nuts, which protect your eyes from damage caused by blue light as well as age related macular degeneration. They also have antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds and one compound has shown some promise in studies for treatments with Parkinson’s disease. For those reasons alone, I’ll be snacking on and using tasty pistachios in more recipes.