Busiate Pasta with Lupini Beans & Pistachio Pesto
Warning: this is not your usual pesto!
I love pesto in all its forms and regional nuances. I've posted before some of my favourite pesto recipes - like these pumpkin gnocchi with sage & walnut pesto, or my mum's sun-dried tomato and almond pesto or these bucatini with dill and caper pesto or my most recent spaghetti nests with Sicilian pesto, mozzarella cherries and breadcrumbs.
This accidentally-vegan pesto features some truly Sicilian ingredients:
pistachio, the King of all nuts in Sicily (where almond is the Queen)
lupin beans, an ancient Mediterranean bean with magical health properties
parsley, one of the most beloved herbs used in our cuisine
The pasta itself - busiate - is as Sicilian as it gets. But more in detail below...
Busiate: a truly Sicilian pasta shape
Busiate are a type of long macaroni, originally from the Trapani province, and typical from Sicily.
An intersting fact (I just discovered) is that they take their name from busa, the Sicilian word for the stem of Ampelodesmos mauritanicus, a large, elegant perennial bunchgrass we in Sicily call disa, which is native to the Mediterranean region. The stem of this plant is very long and thin and resembles the metal instrument use to shape this pasta.
It one of my favourite shapes of pasta but, if you can't find it, you can replace it in this recipe with trofie or strozzapreti - they'll be just as good.
What the heck are Lupin or Lupini Beans?
Lupin or lupini beans are the yellow legume seeds of the genus Lupinus. They are traditionally eaten as a snack food, primarily in the Mediterranean basin - Sicily and southern Italy, Spain, Greece, Palestine and the Levant.
They are also found in parts of Latin America and North Africa. The most ancient evidence of lupin is from ancient Egypt, some remains found in the pyramids dating back to the 22nd century BCE.
They are preserved in brine and to eat them, you squeeze them out of their skin by pressing them between your fingers and straight into your mouth!
In olden times of famine, children would go around with their pockets full of lupini beans to eat, leaving a trail of peels. Today, they are sadly becoming a lesser common sight in festival and fairs, but I remember them being sold in stalls as a child.
A true superfood, lupini have several health properties - from protecting the heart, to lowering cholesterol, to providing fibre and protein. They contain 38% of protein, which is higher than eggs and similar to red meat.
The flour made from dried, milled lupini is very similar in colour and consistency to chickpea flour and is used similarly to the latter in some parts of Sicily.
If you've never tried this legume, I should tell you that you can't simply cook and consume it like you would any other bean or lentil. Lupin beans, in fact, are extremely bitter and as such, they need to go through a process for removing the bitterness for a number of days.
I normally prepare these at home, by soaking the beans in water and salt for 7-10 days. The water needs to be changed daily, the beans rinsed and new salt (3-4 spoons each day) added. From the 5th day onwards, you can start tasting the beans and notice the bitter taste slowly disappearing. On the last day, you transfer them to jars, cover in water and a little salt and keep in the fridge, where they'll last for several months.
Nowadays, you can skip the long prep process and buy them already in brine, just like you would capers, from Italian specialty shops. I still like to follow the traditional method though, and always carry a big bag of dried lupini from Sicily whenever I go.
For the purpose of this recipe, I'm going to assume you are using store bought lupini in brine.
Ingredients (for 4)
500g busiate dry (600g if fresh)
70g lupini beans, in brine
50g pistachios, shelled and inner skin removed
25g fresh parsley, stems removed
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp of the pasta cooking water
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground pistachio and a drizzle of olive oil for serving
Drain the lupini from their brine and quickly rinse them in cold water to remove the excess salt. Remove the outer skin by squeezing each bean between your thumb and index finger - it will come off very easily. You can work on this step while you bring your pasta water to a boil.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and throw in the pasta, following package instructions.
While you wait, prepare the pesto. Place the lupini, pistachios, garlic and parsley in a blender, season with salt and a pinch of pepper and blend to a coarse consistency.
Keeping the blender on, start adding the olive oil slowly, until you reach your desired consistency. If you like your pesto to be silky and extra creamy, add some pasta cooking water slowly till your pesto is really smooth. If you like it a bit chunky, you can skip this step, or reduce the amount of water.
When the pasta is ready, place the pesto in a large mixing bowl and add the pasta to the same bowl, removing it form the water with a slotted spoon. I like to do this way, as opposed to draining the pasta in a colander, because some of the cooking water will transfer to the bowl and add creaminess to the pesto, while also warming it up.
Plate the pasta and top with ground pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.