• Yield: Serves 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main course


  • A scant 1/2 cup unblanched whole almonds, toasted

  • 1/2 cup shelled salted pistachio nuts, toasted 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • 1 large clove garlic

  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

  • 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil

  • 30 large mint leaves (a blend of spearmint and peppermint if possible), plus, possibly, about 10 more mint leaves, or to taste, torn

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound linguine, spaghetti, bucatini, or other string pasta

  • 6 quarts boiling salted water

  • 1 1/3 pint baskets (1 pound) flavorful cherry tomatoes, quartered


  1. Mix the cooled toasted nuts. Coarsely chop about one quarter of them and set aside.

  2. In a mortar (a processor is second choice), pound (or grind) the garlic to a paste with the hot pepper and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Work in the remaining whole nuts and a little more than half the large mint leaves until the mixture looks like very coarse meal, with pieces of nuts at about 1/8 inch. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Tear up the remaining large mint leaves.

  3. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. As the pasta cooks, gently blend the pesto, tomatoes, and 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a deep pasta bowl.

  4. Skim off 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pasta water just before draining, and drain pasta in a colander. Add the pasta to the bowl. Toss together with the reserved pasta water, the chopped nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Then toss in the reserved torn mint. Taste for seasoning, adding extra oil, mint, salt, and/or pepper if needed.

Serve hot or warm. No cheese is used here.

Wine Suggestion: a round, full Sicilian white like Planeta La Secreta Bianco

From The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Copyright 1999 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.