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Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio & “Cream” Sauce Recipe

The Italians know a good thing when they taste it. Take pistachios for instance – here in the U.S. we love our pistachios but tend to eat them as is or toss some in a salad or add to a cookie recipe while the Italians use them in all sorts of recipes. The most memorable for me is Pistachio Cream Sauce for pasta.

I was salivating over the very idea of it the other day but the recipe I have for the sauce contained a third cup of olive oil, a cup and a half of heavy cream and a whole bunch of Parmesan cheese. Utterly fabulous but a tad bit fattening as well.

Since it is still new in the year and I should at least pretend to stick to my decisions to eat healthier I decided to try my hand at a much lower fat version. After all the pistachios themselves are a very healthy addition to our diets as they have no cholesterol, most of the fat in them is good fat and one serving of pistachios has as much protein as a serving of soybeans.

I reduced the olive oil to just 2 tablespoons for 6 servings, used non-fat milk (which can be substituted with non or low fat rice milk for a dairy free version) and cut the parmesan down to a just a quarter cup with a little sprinkling at serving time (or omitted all together). Interestingly enough, I found that the non-fat milk let the flavor of the pistachios really shine through in a way that the heavy cream did not. I actually preferred this low fat version to the original.

The sauce contains some anchovy fillets but don’t be scared! The fillets melt into the olive oil and do not in any way impart a fishy flavor. They just leave this rich, slightly salty taste in the background which is fantastic!

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image
It takes just a few pantry ingredients and some low fat milk to make this amazing sauce – don’t let the anchovies worry you!

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image
Take some of the pistachios and roughly chop for garnish and grind the rest finely for the sauce.

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image
Heat the oil and cook the onions until tender. Add minced garlic, anchovy fillets, black and crushed red pepper and cook for a couple more minutes. Hold off on salt for now!

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image

Smash the anchovy fillets with the back of a spoon and they will melt into the olive oil. Add the ground pistachios, cook a couple minutes to bring out the flavor even more and then add the non-fat milk. Let boil for a bit.

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image
After about 10 minutes the sauce will have thickened. There will be some liquid that is separated from the “mass” but this will be absorbed by the cooked pasta. Add your cheese if using now and taste to see if it needs any salt.

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image
When your gluten-free pasta is cooked (cook it a couple minutes less than the time recommended on the package) ladle out some of the pasta cooking water and save it in case you need to thin the sauce. Drain the pasta then return the pasta and the sauce to the hot pot. Cook a minute or two, tossing to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add some of the reserved pasta water if needed. Garnish with the reserved chopped pistachios and some grated Parmesan if desired and prepare yourself for culinary bliss!

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio "Cream" Sauce Recipe Image

Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio “Cream” Sauce Recipe


1 cup unsalted pistachios – use divided
1½ pounds gluten-free rice pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups non-fat or low fat milk or dairy-free milk
¼ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated plus more for garnish (optional – leave out for dairy free)


Put ¾ cup of the pistachios in a food processor and grind until fine. Chop the remaining ¼ cup of pistachios roughly and set aside for garnish.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente – usually 2 minutes less than recommended on the package directions. Make sure to stir the pasta occasionally while cooking to prevent it sticking to itself.

While pasta is cooking make the sauce. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil then add the chopped onion. Cook onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, anchovy fillets, red and black peppers. Cook for 2 minutes smashing the anchovies as they cook to dissolve into the olive oil. Add the ¾ cup of ground pistachios and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the milk, turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a slight boil and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. There will be some extra liquid in the sauce but this is ok, it will be absorbed by the pasta. Add the ¼ cup Parmesan cheese if using. Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary. Turn off the heat.

When the pasta is finished cooking remove 2 or 3 ladles of the pasta cooking water and reserve then drain the pasta. Return the drained pasta to the hot pan it was cooked in, add the pistachio sauce and cook over medium heat for a minute or two tossing the pasta with the sauce to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the dish if the sauce seems too thick.

Serve with the reserved chopped pistachios sprinkled over and some additional Parmesan cheese if using.


This Gluten Free Pasta with Low Fat Pistachio “Cream” Sauce Recipe serves 6

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owner’s. This blog accepts free manufacturers’ samples and forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Affiliate links may be included in this post.

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Categories:    Main Dishes

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Helene January 11, 2011 at 9:06 am

I love pistachios but tend to eat them as a snack or in baking, like you said. I like you step-by-step pictures of the dish.


Joy January 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

This sounds amazing! Love that it is low in fat. Love the step by steps too.


The InTolerant Chef January 12, 2011 at 5:03 am

So right about the anchovies, they add so much without anyone knowing why. The ultimate secret ingredient!


Shannon January 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

Lovely recipe! Your photography is great!


Anita January 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Yum, I'm drooling! Love this recipe and it is going on my must try list! Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous January 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Yum! What a great recipe – thanks for sharing.


Sarah February 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I can only imagine how wonderful this tastes! Love that it is lower in fat and healthier too. I will be trying this soon.


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