Italy, despite its small production quota, is among the seven main producers of pistachios in the world and its succulent variety is considered the “elite pistachio”, in high demand for confectionery and pastry making. Pistachios grown in the town of Bronte, in Sicily, are known by Italians as “green gold”. And the moment you eat an arancino at an old school local bar, it's easy to understand why. There is a crispy crust of breadcrumbs and then a pistachio pesto with bechamel thickly woven around each grain of rice.
Pistachios are the star here because they are the best in the world. Nowadays, most of the pistachios consumed in Italy are imported from Iran and Iraq. Throughout the Middle Ages, the pistachios that Sicilians ate came from eastern Sicily, where they are still cultivated, particularly around Mount Etna and in the Bronte area. Traditionally cultivated in India, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, pistachios were introduced to Sicily in ancient times, probably by the Phoenicians, the Sicelos or the first Greek colonists.
There is no doubt that the 9th century Arab rulers of Sicily encouraged the wider cultivation of tasty walnuts. It was probably the Saracen Arabs who began the practice of radically pruning pistachios every two years to increase nut production. Pistachios were introduced in many of the sweets that are still made today, created in Arabian Sicily with cane sugar. This is how most of the Sicilian pistachio production is now used, either in pies or in pistachio ice cream.
Sicilian pistachios are slightly longer and thinner than those grown in the Middle East. They also seem to have a stronger, sharper flavor, perhaps due in part to the volcanic soil in which they are cultivated. They are not exported in large quantities. Unlike olive producers, pistachio producers receive little financial support from the Italian government.
Here in Sicily, almonds seem to have been preferred to pistachios, probably because growing pistachios was historically more difficult. Almond trees, which require slightly less water, generally appear more resilient than pistachios. Sicily is suffering from a prolonged drought; in recent years, the decrease in annual rainfall has reduced the quantity, but not the quality, of Sicilian pistachios. Widely considered an appetizer, pistachios are well suited to Italian recipes, including some containing pine nuts.
Pistachios are excellent in rice dishes or as a side dish in main courses. To prepare pistachios in this way, simply remove them from the shell, leaving the kernels to soak for at least an hour in cold water flavored with lemon juice. . A Palermo restaurant serves tender Sicilian pistachios on gnocchi as part of a delicious gorgonzola sauce (blue cheese).
Bronte pistachios, the green gold, are eaten without shells and salted, and have great adaptability, both in the kitchen and in the pastry shop. They are used in the confectionery industry, mainly for cakes, pastries, nougats, mousses, candies, ice cream and slushies. Here are some examples of recipes with pistachios. Pistachio is an especially popular nut and flavor in Italy, and one of many proud Sicilians.
Sicily is the region best known for pistachios, especially the small town of Bronte, near the famous volcano, Mount. Bar Sport Saitta is one of those humble places that, according to the locals, has the best croccantino, pistachio arancino and authentic pistachio ice cream. The Bronte pistachios found in her line come exclusively from pistachios grown on her family's farm, as well as from her husband's farm. .