Fettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto

Fettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto

I waited with great anticipation to get some bags of tomatillos.  I knew that they’d arrive at some point in our CSA box and, this past week, there they were, amidst an array of collard greens, potatoes, and shallots.  They came in a plastic mesh bag, like the ones you find mussels or clams stored in at your local grocery store.

When I took them out of their pouch, it felt strange to hold them.  We’re obviously out of summer, but these little guys feel as if their meant to be consumed in warmer climates amid lighter fare.  I wondered if this was the wrong time for me to be blogging about them; that I should instead resort to squash and potatoes.

Tomatillos do happen to be in season, which ranges from May to November, so it’s not like it’s the craziest thing that I’m writing about them.  And, you know what, even if you don’t make this recipe right now, one day you’ll be searching for a way to prepare these green delights and you’ll know exactly where to turn.

Now, if you have never seen or heard of a tomatillo before, here’s a little background info:  The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine, but their roots stem from  the Aztecs, who were the first to cultivate it. They are the shape and color of a small unripe tomato, but are less tart and more citrusy in flavor.  Because of this, they pair nicely in spicier dishes.

The tomatillo has a thin husk that surrounds it, giving it the appearance of a small gourd.  In fact, you may see it referred to as a “husk-tomato”.  When preparing the tomatillo, you will want to remove this outer shell.

There are a number of ways to cook tomatillos, but my favorite is actually to have them raw.  In their most perfect form, they will be a little sweet and less tart.  As mentioned above, they pair wonderfully with hot peppers, so salsa might be one direction to go in.  I, however, wanted to incorporate it into my dinner, so instead I made a spicy pesto: pine nuts, garlic, cilantro, a jalapeno, a bit of lime juice, and some chopped up tomatillos.  It was a burst of bright flavors that was much needed with this gloomy fall weather.

Fettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro PestoFettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto

Fettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto


1 lb fettucine

1 lb tomatillo, husked and quartered

2 cups packed cilantro, washed and dried

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 jalapeno, seeds removed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

Kosher salt, to taste


Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

While it is cooking, you can make the pesto.  Add the jalapeno, pine nuts and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Next, add the cilantro, 3/4 of the tomatillo, lime juice, and a little salt and run the processor.  While this is happening, drizzle in the olive oil.  Season with some more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Toss the pasta with the pesto and taste for seasoning.  Serve with some chopped tomatillo on top and some toasted pine nuts.

  • October 19, 2011 - 1:32 am

    Diane {Created by Diane} - sounds delicious, I bought tomatillos for the first time about a month ago. I’ve eaten them, but never really knew what I would do with them. Love the cute “wrapper” they come in. I made an avocado sauce and now I’ll be getting some more to make this…..i love pasta dishes!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 1:51 am

    Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } - This is my kind of pasta – you made simple perfection here. Hats off to you. Supreme photos. :)ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 2:41 am

    Vijitha - Simple to make and its a easy fix on a weeknight. My kinda pasta!!!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 7:05 am

    Wenderly - Mmmmmmm sounds divine even at this very moment and it’s 7:05 a.m.ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 8:11 am

    Joanne - My CSA is actually the reason I kind of fell in love with tomatillos this summer…and I’m not quite ready to stop cooking with them yet! Thanks for this awesome recipe, Brian. The tomatillos paired with the cilantro and pasta is like a southwestern play on tomato and basil pesto. Love it.ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 8:14 am

    Kulsum at JourneyKitchen - Wow! is all I can say. All flavors I love in this pasta. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 8:51 am

    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. - I love cilantro! Putting this one on my listReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 9:29 am

    Ron Hilbink - Brian:

    Being a big fan of both tomatillos and cilantro this is a recipe I will definitely try. The pesto has to be superb given the ingredients. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 9:34 am

    Jan - I’m very excited about this recipe because I too received a batch of tomatillos in my last CSA box, but I don’t feel like salsa. Thanks for sharing this great idea :)ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 9:36 am

    SweetSugarBelle - I love tomatillo. It’s very common where I live, but I usually only see it in salsa or enchilada sauces. I LOVE that you used it in such an unexpected way, but with some familiar flavors. This is a good one!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 9:53 am

    Georgie - Beautiful and creative recipe and it looks so good, my mouth is watering. It’s breakfast time right now and I want this NOW! I heart your blog, with the gorgeous photos, delicious recipes and captivating writing!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 10:41 am

    Kristen - Loving this pesto… I’ve been wanting to cook with tomatillo’s for a long time now. You’ve inspired me!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 11:08 am

    Jeanne @ CookSister! - Oh lucky you – to get tomatillos in your CSA box! You simply don’t see them over there in the UK :( Such a pity as there can be nothing as refreshing as a tomatillo salsa… lovely recipe!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 11:41 am

    foodwanderings - hang ona second I had to take a second look when RT’d yesterday it didn’t dawn on me the cilantro. lol Lov ethe combination of cilantro & tomatillos & you are lucky you got them in the CSA & the ones out there aren;t in the ‘bestest’ shape.ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Mandy @ Cater to Me - What a cool idea! I never would have thought of using these to make pesto, but now I can’t get the idea out of my head :)ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 2:00 pm

    Heidi @foodiecrush - I’m with Mandy, tomatillos added to pesto is a terrif idea. Fresh and light too, perfect foil for the heavier fare I’ve been leaning toward for fall and my coccooning in.ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 3:19 pm

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - When I see tomatillos I always think salsa and I’m not a big salsa eater, but now I know what to make with them!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 3:22 pm

    Jeanette - That sounds so light and fresh – I’ve never used tomatillos before, so am excited to find a good recipe using them.ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 3:30 pm

    Kasey - I have never tried tomatillos in pasta- what a great, fresh idea!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 3:44 pm

    Marcela - OMG!! can I rename this recipe as italo-guatemalan pasta?? (hehe, just kidding) but the amazing thing is that my kids are like your recipe! I’m from Guatemala and my husband is from Italy, then my kids are just like this recipe! fantastic!! I will try it, for sure they will enjoy it, thanks for share!!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 3:55 pm

    The Dinner Belle for Kimberlybelle.com - I have been off tomatillos for a long time–ever since my mom grew them and they exploded in the garden. We had vats of tomatillo salsa, fresh and frozen. But this recipe may just bring me back to them! It look delicious and I love a bit of spice in any of my meals. Just don’t tell my mom–I don’t want her to start growing them again. 😉

    The Dinner Belle for Kimberlybelle.comReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 4:27 pm

    SMITH BITES - pasta dishes like this one are some of my ‘go-to’ dishes . . . you are sooooo lucky to get them in your CSA box!!ReplyCancel

  • October 19, 2011 - 11:22 pm

    Ann - What a great flavor combination….tomatillo and cilantro instead of basil! Your photos – as always – are stunning!ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 12:26 am

    Angie's Recipes - Love tomatillos and your fettucine looks so appetizing!ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 7:32 am

    Francesca - Love the flying fettuccine! Have you tried with almonds and cherry tomatoes?ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 10:36 am

    Joan Nova - Love the Mexican-Italian marriage. While I never thought of that kind of pairing, I know it tasted good!

    P.S. I don’t think I knew that you could eat tomatillos raw — so thanks.ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 10:50 am

    angela@spinachtiger - Tomatillos are something I usually pass over at the store because I’m not sure what to do with them. Your post was enlightening. I never figured them for pasta.ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 1:45 pm

    Jennifer Crain - I’m jealous – we’ve never received tomatillos as part of our weekly share. Time to put a note in the suggestion box for next year! This recipe looks delicious. I’ve never had tomatillos in anything but salsa so I’m looking forward to trying this. Your photos are gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2011 - 4:07 pm

    MikeVFMK - My wife would love this pasta, and I know I would! Tomatillos? Yes, please. Perfect addition to the pasta and a great CSA addition. Lovely, as usual!ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 12:23 am

    bakersroyale - What a great combination: tomatillo and cilantro. I love the spice with cooling combo of the two!ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 12:32 am

    Kelsey - Oh, we just had these in our share last week! Wishing I would have seen this earlier. Gorgeous photos, I love the depth of texture, and story that the tomatillos tell.ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 2:37 am

    Sook - What a great idea to use cilantro for pesto! I must try this.ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 7:00 am

    Jenn - Lovely combination of flavors for fettuccine – congrats on top 9 :)ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 10:10 am

    john berg - love pasta,prefer it with garlic, oil, pesto etc. instead of a red sauce or alfredo, so this sounds like a must-try recipe. weight-watchers suggests to buy a new fruit or veggie every week. i think ive had it all, but always walk past the tomatillos. not today. in the past months ive bought star fruit, ugli fruit, horned pears, quince (bitter), pine nuts, brussel sprouts, all stuff i always thoufgt i wouldnt like. my badReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 10:12 am

    Bree - Love the Mexican/Italian combo here. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 1:15 pm

    sippitysup - Okay I gotta admit this is creative. Tomatillos are so easy to get in Latin markets here. This finally elevates them from the tried and true salsa trap. GREGReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 8:00 pm

    visda - gorgeous! I love tomatillo and cilantro. Couldn’t get any better to combine these. Thanks for sharing these great flavors.ReplyCancel

  • October 21, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    Mercedes@Satisfy My Sweet Tooth - This is going into my recipe box ASAP. I love this flavor combination, but had not thought of putting it on pasta before. Can’t wait to try it!ReplyCancel

  • October 22, 2011 - 11:54 am

    Andrew Frishman - Mmm. . . I loves me some pasta, especially when it has lots of cilantro in it which means that some other people don’t like it, so that means that more is left over for me!

    Cilantro es una planta deliciosa.ReplyCancel

  • October 22, 2011 - 12:46 pm

    Krista {Budget Gourmet Mom} - That looks delicious! What a great use for tomatillos.ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    Russell van Kraayenburg - LOVING that fork shot… and all of them too. I also adore tomatillos. Trying this soon.ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 10:16 am

    Monet - Hi lovely man. You and your recipes…super seductive, always! I must put this on my “To-Cook” list. Ryan will be thrilled. He loves tomatillos and we have plenty of them in Texas. Thank you for sharing with me today. It is always a good day when I start with a visit to your blog. You know how to make me smile. Much love and many blessings from Austin.ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 9:16 pm

    Lora @cakeduchess - I now cannot wait to try your pesto idea. I just made some traditional pesto tonight. I never know what to do with tomatillos and I will definitely try this pesto version next week:)xxReplyCancel

  • October 26, 2011 - 4:36 pm

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - I love tomatillos, but I don’t use them nearly enough. This recipe looks incredible. I am picking up a bunch of them the next time I see them at the store or market!ReplyCancel

  • October 29, 2011 - 5:16 pm

    Ranjani @ Four Seasons of Food - Ooh, love this idea! I’ve been seeing tomatillos at the farmers’ market but don’t know quite what to do with them besides salsaReplyCancel

  • October 31, 2011 - 12:52 am

    Dana B - I happen to despise cilantro even tho I loved AZ and lived there for 10+ years; however, my hubby loves loves loves cilantro and will be ecstatic if I make this for him so I thank you very much for this recipe; I am sure he will love it :)ReplyCancel

  • October 31, 2011 - 8:15 am

    Michelle @ Greedy Gourmet - I did a double take when I saw your gorgeous photos of tomatillos. They are not what I expected! Their little jackets reminded me of cape gooseberries but what do they actually taste like? Now only if I could find them in the UK, because your recipe looks enticing!ReplyCancel

  • November 2, 2011 - 7:59 pm

    Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence - I love the citrus flavor of tomatillos. This sounds like a great weeknight meal. Especially if paired with some grilled chicken or tofu.ReplyCancel

  • November 9, 2011 - 5:22 am

    Connie - I’m embarrassed to say I’ve heard of these before but never seen one. I learned something new today :)ReplyCancel

  • May 3, 2012 - 7:09 pm

    Cookie and Kate - Oh Brian, I’m so glad Heidi posted a photo of this recipe on FoodieCrush today! I LOVE pesto and I LOVE tomatillo salsa, so it looks like you have the best of both worlds going on here. I’ve wanted to make something with tomatillos before, but I think I’ve always been a little intimidated by those papery husks. Now I’m going to buy some just so I can try them raw, and we’ll see what happens from there!ReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2012 - 6:29 am

    CSA Share: Week 10 and mid-summer recipe ideas « Field Grazing - […] Fettuccine with tomatillo and cilantro pesto […]ReplyCancel

  • September 30, 2012 - 6:51 pm

    Justice - I just harvested a couple of pounds of tomatillos from my plot in the community garden. I try to grow unfamiliar vegetables so people don’t steal them (my carrots routinely disappear, but my yellow pear tomatoes don’t. This is my first attempt at growing tomatillos and I have a bumper crop (an unusually long summer in Vancouver). Like another of your correspondents, I’m not crazy about cilantro, so I’ll substitute flat leaf parsley for half. I’m really looking forward to trying this pesto.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 1:39 pm

    Meatless Monday | Sage and Walnut Pesto » Chez Us - […] Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto – A Thought for Food […]ReplyCancel

  • November 20, 2012 - 2:22 pm

    Vero Calero - great recipe thank you very much!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2012 - 3:53 pm

    Mary McAuley - Never cooked with tomatillos before. This recipe is easy and yummy! I added parmesan cheese and shredded cooked chicken.ReplyCancel

  • January 28, 2013 - 2:17 am

    Jo Fidler - This is the best Pesto I have ever eaten, a little spicy but really wonderful taste!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2013 - 2:49 pm

    Alice Choi - this pasta is absolutely beautiful! such interesting and wonderful flavors together, love it!ReplyCancel

  • March 18, 2013 - 8:57 pm

    Amanda - Nice fresh recipe – thanks for the inspiration. I made this last night and it went down a treat. Only addition i made was a sprinkling of lightly roasted pumpkin seeds – Only because my family love them and they are so good for them at the same time. Thanks – this is definitely going to be cooked once a week.ReplyCancel

  • September 12, 2013 - 4:44 pm

    Carlton Rae - Very tasty, is there a way to can this recipe. We have lots of the tomatillo’s still in the garden.ReplyCancel

  • October 9, 2013 - 5:51 am

    Creamy Tomatillo Dip - A Thought For Food - […] last time I played around with tomatillos, I turned them into a pesto and tossed them with pasta. Of course, my mind went in a similar direction this time, but to spruce things up, I made a […]ReplyCancel

  • August 1, 2014 - 9:00 am

    What are Tomatillos and Green Tomatoes? Same or Different? | Organic Authority - […] tomatillo salsa or enchiladas verde. Not all tomatillo recipes are Latin influenced either; this green linguine combines a variety of influences, including […]ReplyCancel

  • March 15, 2015 - 6:19 pm

    Suzanne Plesha - Great suggestion for these little green ‘friends’.
    Thank you for the history, photos, and receipe.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2013 - 2:52 pm

    A Thought For Food - So sorry for the delay in responding! I am so glad you enjoyed this… I am a fan of spicy foods, so it may need some adjusting for other people. :-) ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2013 - 2:53 pm

    A Thought For Food - Oh that’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

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