Sicilian Ricotta and Pistachio Pasta Recipe.

Sicilian Ricotta and Pistachio Pasta Recipe.

Two of the most important ingredients in the Sicilian kitchen are ricotta and pistachios. Both are used in desserts and pasta recipes. This Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta is a delicious example of how beautifully these two typical foods can be used together to make a divine creamy plate of pasta.

Occhi di Lupo con ricotta e pistacchi alla Siciliana.

Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe

Ricotta in Sicily.

Ricotta is made and eaten throughout Italy. However, it’s more prevalent in Sicilian cuisine than in other regional cuisines.

Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe

Cheese making is an ancient tradition in Sicily. In fact, some say that cheese making in Europe originated in Sicily. Of all the cheeses produced on the island, ricotta is probably the most used in the Sicilian kitchen.

ingredients for Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe

Ricotta is actually a whey cheese obtained by reheating the whey left over from the production of other cheeses made with sheep, goat or cow’s milk. Did you know that the word ‘ricotta’ means recooked?

cleaned pitachios in blender and olive oil and parmigiano cheese

In Sicily, they make different kinds of ricotta. These include ricotta salata which involves dry-salting the surface and aging the cheese for 10-30 days. This cheese is often grated on to pasta dishes and is an essential ingredient in pasta alla Norma.

ready pistachio pesto

Then there is ricotta affumicata (smoked ricotta) and ricotta infornata, which is made with fresh ricotta placed into ceramic vessels and oven-baked for a day or more, giving the cheese a thin reddish-brown crust.

Ricotta in the Sicilian Kitchen.

Ricotta, especially sheep ricotta, is the queen of the island’s patisseries. Sicilians use it in many cakes and desserts including cassata, cannoli, cassatele and even ice cream. Of course, there are a lot of Sicilian pasta with ricotta dishes too. The most traditional is with just ricotta and perhaps some nutmeg. However, many include other ingredients like fava beans, almonds, eggplant or even ragu.

creamed ricotta sauce with pistachio pesto in large frying pan

This Sicilian pasta with ricotta recipe has pistachio pesto in it! Pistachios are also an important ingredient in the Sicilian kitchen.

Pistachios in Sicily.

Sicily is the only Italian region that cultivates the real pistachio (pistacia vera). The best and greatest quantity of pistachios in Sicily come from the town of Bronte. This is a town I have visited on numerous occasions with my Sicilian hubby. In fact, the pistachios I used for this Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe were from Bronte!

Of course not everyone can find Sicilian pistachios! However, any good quality raw pistachio kernels work well too. If raw pistachios aren’t available you can try toasted ones, but preferably unsalted. 

ricotta and pistachio sauce in deep frying pan

In Bronte, pistachios grow  in volcanic soil, on the sun baked terrain of Mount Etna and the Nebrodi mountains. The harvest takes place every two years between the end of August and beginning of September and is an important event for the town’s population. Even today, the pistachios are harvested by men, women and children who climb the slopes to pick the nuts, one at a time.

occhi di lupo pasta tubes and ricotta pistachio sauce in deep frying pan

Like ricotta, pistachios are used in Sicily to make ice-cream and many cakes. Sicilians also use them to make granita (a kind of sorbet), a pistachio liqueur and a green Nutella! However, probably the most well-known savoury pistachio recipes are pistachio pesto and this creamy pasta with ricotta and pistachio.

Making this Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta.

I have already posted another recipe for pistachio pesto on its own with scialatielli pasta. In this recipe, ricotta is creamed with the pasta cooking water and then mixed with a simple pistachio pesto. This is a super easy recipe that only takes as long as it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.

occhio di lupo pasta mixed with ricotta pistachio sauce in frying pan

The pasta.

I used a typical Southern Italian pasta tube called occhi di lupo, meaning wolf’s eyes. You can read more about this pasta if you visit my occhi di lupo post.  A number of different Italian pasta makers make these largish pasta tubes. The ones I used were from Di Martino, one of the companies who produce Pasta di Gragnano IGP. If you want to know more about pasta from this town near Naples, take a look at my post about my visit to Gragnano.

occhi di lupo pasta Di Martino

Other types of pasta tubes also go well in this recipe. In Sicily, they often use ditali or small pasta shells. However you can use penne, sedani or any other small to medium sized pasta tube. Whichever pasta you use, I’m sure you are going to love this creamy dish. It’s easy to make and quite light, so great for warm weather meals too!

Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe

If you make this pasta recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Buon appetito!

Some of the other pasta recipes with ricotta on The Pasta Project.

  1. Classic baked pasta shells filled with spinach and ricotta
  2. Pasta shells with tuna and ricotta.
  3. Linguine with mint pesto and ricotta
  4. Tuscan spinach and ricotta gnudi (gnocchi)
  5. Ricotta and basil filled paccheri

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4.98 from 37 votes
Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta in blue and white bowl
Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins

This traditional vegetarian Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe is beautifully creamy, light and easy to make. Perfect for summer and weeknight meals!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian, Southern Italian
Keyword: Italian recipe, pasta recipe, pesto, pistachio, pistachio pesto, ricotta, Sicilian food
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g occhi di lupo pasta (140z) or other pasta tube
  • 400 g fresh ricotta (14oz) traditionally sheep ricotta but cow's milk ricotta works too.
  • 200 g pistachios (7oz) raw kernels
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 g Parmigiano cheese (2oz) grated
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

  1. Put a pot of water onto boil for the pasta. Add salt once the water starts to boil and
    bring to the boil again.

  2. If your pistachios are unpeeled, put them into a bowl of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drain them and wipe them with  a cloth to remove some of the skin covering them.

  3. Save a few pistachios and put the rest in a blender or food processor, add the grated cheese and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Blend/pulse until you have a rough dense pesto. If necessary add more olive oil but as little as possible.

  4. Cream the ricotta in a food processor or with a fork. Put it in a large pan (big enough to hold the cooked pasta too)

  5. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.

  6. Just before the pasta is ready, take half a cup of the cooking water and add to the
    ricotta. Stir it in until you have a creamy sauce. Add salt to taste. Then add
    the pistachio pesto and stir that in too until it’s totally incorporated in the

  7. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the
    sauce. Add some of the saved pasta cooking water if the sauce seems dry (although it shouldn’t be).

  8. Mix the pasta and the sauce together well. Add ground black pepper. Serve immediately with a few whole pistachios and extra grated cheese if required.

Recipe Notes

This recipe can be made with different types of small to medium size pasta tubes. The best pistachios to use are raw kernels. But, if you can't find raw pistachio, toasted may work. I wouldn't recommend salted pistachios! Traditionally this recipe is made with sheep ricotta but cow's milk ricotta is delicious too.

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Sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta recipe

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  • Avatar
    May 3, 2020 6:03 pm

    This was pretty good. I cut the recipe in half for just the two of us. I couldn’t find unsalted raw pistachios anywhere, so I used roasted salted pistachios that I soak and rinsed and it turned out fine. I think next time I’ll add pancetta or at least bacon bits.

    • Jacqui
      May 4, 2020 7:43 am

      Hi April, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked this recipe. I haven’t made it with roasted salted pistachios so I can’t compare but good idea to soak them! Pancetta or bacon bits would be a yummy addition!

  • Avatar
    March 15, 2020 4:29 am

    we just returned from Catania, SIcily,, the pistachio pasta was one of our favorite dishes,,also the Pasta Norma too,, we will be trying this once I pick up the ingredients,,Thank you,, Dianne
    We actually visited Mount Etna,,
    our daughter and her family live there,,

  • Avatar
    Denis Lynch
    March 7, 2020 9:28 pm

    Excellent recipe! That one picture of the finished dish in the pan is how mine finished. The photos of the plated dish look less creamy and delicious, as though they had been allowed to sit for too long.

    A recipe with so few ingredients is always a delight. Here, there’s a beautiful fruity pistachio note that would easily masked. This will definitely be a standard in our kitchen!

  • Avatar
    Jere Cassidy
    January 10, 2020 7:17 am

    I loved reading about the pistachios, I only use pistachios in sweet desserts so making the sauce with pistachios sounds delicious.

  • Avatar
    Barbie’s Beauty Bits
    July 27, 2019 8:32 pm

    You are making me hungry. I will be trying some of these this weekend. Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Heather Behrends
    July 26, 2019 4:16 am

    What a lovely recipe! I never would have thought to add pistachios to a pasta dish, but my husband will go crazy for this! Also, I loved learning more about the ingredients (and Italy)…my mouth is watering and my feet are itching to travel!

  • Avatar
    Ashley Frederick
    July 26, 2019 2:09 am

    Such a simple recipe! It looks really good! I’m adding this to my list of recipes to try!

  • Avatar
    Life of a Cherry Wife
    July 25, 2019 6:12 pm

    Yum! This looks really good!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 4:59 pm

    Hi Jacqui,
    I love this site! I’m a big fan of ricotta cheese but have yet to use it for a pasta dinner. I have only used it for lasagna. I’ll have to try this and your other recipes that use ricotta cheese. This looks so good! Thanks for sharing.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 3:40 pm

    HI Jacqui,
    This recipe looks absolutely divine and perfect for company or just for your family. I never knew that Ricotta meant recook – that an interesting tidbit to know. Thanks for sharing you delicious recipe and the story.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 3:28 pm

    I love your website! Not only does this dish look SO good, I love the additional explanations about the ingredients! Makes me want to visit Italy soon but will make these dishes from your site for now!!

  • Avatar
    Anindya Sundar Basu
    July 25, 2019 3:14 pm

    Wow this is a wonderful recipe and cant wait to try it.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 3:04 pm

    This pasta dish looks so good! I’m looking forward to trying it out on our next pasta night.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 3:01 pm

    I love using ricotta in pasta dishes but have never tried it with pistachios. I will definitely be giving this a try! Sounds like the perfect easy peasy summer meal!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 2:58 pm

    Honestly I would have never thought to pair ricotta and pistachios! This looks so amazing I can’t wait to try it. I’m a huge pasta fan my whole family is lol we love our carbs and having some things that are “healthy” makes it even better.

  • Avatar
    Jessica Kokoszki
    July 25, 2019 2:35 pm

    I would never think to add pistachios. Such a great idea!!!!

  • Avatar
    Tiffany Fairbanks
    July 25, 2019 2:35 pm

    WOW! This looks delicious! I can’t wait to make this for my family!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 2:22 pm

    This ricotta pistachio pasta looks so delicious. I just want to dive right in:)). I love your descriptions about ricotta, Sicily and what some of the words mean. Beautiful shot and beautiful dish!!! Brava:)

  • Avatar
    Angela Greven | Mean Green Chef
    July 25, 2019 2:09 pm

    Ohhh this looks absolutely divine! Love the flavor combination with sheep’s milk ricotta, takes me right back to my Nan’s dinner table. Pinning too, thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 1:44 pm

    I never thought about combining pasta with pistachios, but now that I read this recipe, I see how they can be blended together to make a delicious dish!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 1:01 pm

    What a beautiful and elegant dish! I love that it is so simple and with just a few ingredients.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 12:54 pm

    Looks so great. Definitely trying it out

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2019 12:40 pm

    This looks beautiful. I love how you’ve used the pistachio in this recipe, I would never have thought to add them in as a paste.

  • Avatar
    janice sisemore
    July 25, 2019 12:39 pm

    Looks like a in meal. A lot of cheese.

  • Trackback: Friday! Friday! Friday! Favorites! – 07/19/2019
  • Avatar
    Michel onnet
    July 3, 2019 9:36 pm

    Hi Jacqueline,
    Lovely recipe with Pistachio Pesto – thank you.
    However I would have liked to add Garlic to my Pesto.
    Is that acceptable? If so, how much?
    and maybe some fresh herbs – Basil &/or others – which?
    Give me your opinion – thanks.

  • Avatar
    July 2, 2019 9:36 pm

    The Pasta looks delicious and lip smacking. It’s great to know the story of pistachios grown in that city. The dish gets so special because of that.

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    July 1, 2019 1:45 pm

    This sicilian ricotta and pistachio pasta looks so creamy and dreamy. I love a good pistachio pesto.

  • Avatar
    Claudia Lamascolo
    July 1, 2019 1:27 pm

    Everything is better with pistachios in it, I love the idea of a crunchiness instead of a pesto!

  • Avatar
    Amanda Wren-Grimwood
    July 1, 2019 1:06 pm

    I would never have thought of pistachios with pasta but it looks and sounds delicious to have that creaminess and crunch too.

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    July 1, 2019 12:42 pm

    ricotta cheese is seriously one of my favorite things ever. And i love that this pasta has pistachios in it too. What a great combo.

  • Avatar
    Milica Vladova
    July 1, 2019 11:35 am

    What a wonderful combinations of flavors!

  • Avatar
    June 30, 2019 1:34 pm

    Oooh I just love this recipe! Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts & this pasta dish looks scrumptious & easy to make!

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2019 5:24 pm

    This looks so so good. I never even thought of using pistachios to make pesto. I have to try it. I love being creative with food. Just because you have never seen it before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it.

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2019 11:05 am

    Oh, this looks so amazing!!! I love pistachios, and I love this amazing combination! I will definitely try this out!

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 9:18 pm

    Ohh I am loving the color of this and I would never think about adding pistachios to my pasta. But now I will be trying this. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this great recipe.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 8:08 pm

    There is nothing better than a big plate of pasta and this is just perfect! The homemade sauce is a winner in our house! Thanks for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Beth Pierce
    June 28, 2019 7:07 pm

    Wow! What a perfectly creamy pasta dish! This will make a great side dish with dinner tonight! Yum!

  • Avatar
    Tanya Schroeder
    June 28, 2019 7:06 pm

    I don’t normally see pistachios with pasta! This is wonderful!

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 6:18 pm

    I love your pasta recipes. They are always so yummy.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 6:04 pm

    Amazing pasta dish! And I learned so much about both ricotta and pistachios that it was fun sharing at my monthly ‘foodie dinner with friends’ – this month was Italian themed and this was raved about by all.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 5:51 pm

    Love the facts about ricotta! I had no idea. This dish looks so incredible!

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 5:45 pm

    This pasta looks so creamy and delicious. I’m absolutely loving the addition of pistachios.. Can’t wait to try this.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 4:42 pm

    This looks like a stellar plate of pasta! I have never heard of anything like it! Just can’t wait to give it a try!

  • Avatar
    Lauren | Delicious Little Bites
    June 28, 2019 3:22 pm

    I love, love, love every single ingredient in this pasta recipe! Adding to my menu for next week – my family will love this!

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 2:48 pm

    So creamy and yummy pasta. I love the sauce so much.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2019 1:27 pm

    This looks so delicious! Perfect way to satifsy my comfort food craving.

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