Giusy was a spirited au pair who came from Sicily. Her strong interest in food sparked off a friendship from a very early point. She rustled up this pasta dish the evening she arrived with pistachios picked from her back garden earlier in the day. It remains a personal favourite. The sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. After a hard day, that can be very welcome.
The amount of chilli you add will depend on personal taste. The hottest part of the chilli is in the seeds, which you may remove or not as you please.
—Dublin Cookery School
small red chilli
large shallots, finely chopped
large slices of Parma ham, cut into strips about 1.5cm wide
roughly ground pistachios, plus extra for serving
Remove the stalk from the chilli and split it in half. Chop the chilli into fine dice. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the chilli and chopped shallots. Cook for 1–2 minutes, until softened. Add the strips of Parma ham and toss
for about 10 seconds. Add the cream and bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for a few minutes. Add 3–4 rounded tablespoons of the ground pistachios to the sauce and simmer again for another minute or so. Set aside until ready to use.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. For about 4 litres of water, add 1 level tablespoon of table salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss until well coated. Add a dash of the pasta water to loosen the sauce and toss again.
When serving, sprinkle some roughly ground pistachios over the top and a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmesan.
NO TE Particularly for the final sprinkling, make sure that the pistachios are not too finely ground. They add great texture when scattered over the pasta.