An easy no cook pesto made from few classic ingredients that give a pure rich Mediterranean taste. This pesto Trapanese or famously known also as Sicilian pesto is a recipe you need in your life especially during these warm days.
Everyone knows about the classic green northern Pesto Genovese; however let me introduce you to the red southern counterpart; Pesto Trapanese. This pesto originates from Trapani, located on the western end of Sicily. It’s said that this pesto came to be when Genovese sailors introduced their pesto to the people in Trapani and they created their version using the best ingredients their island produces. With its unique strong yet delicate flavour and grainy coarse texture, this pesto became a staple in Sicilian cuisine. Although there are some variations around, the bases are still the same.
What is Pesto Trapanese
Pesto Trapanese or as known in Trapani as pasta cu l’agghia (pasta with garlic) is a cold pesto made from few ingredients. Therefore, it is best to source the best ingredients for this one so to achieve the best result. Typically this pesto is served with fresh busiate pasta; short or long. However, you can serve it with other types of pasta. This pesto main ingredients are garlic, which you will need plenty, as traditionally one per person is needed and hence the local Trapani name for it pasta cu l’agghia, you will also need tomatoes, basil, almonds, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can also add some grated pecorino cheese in the pesto, however this is optional as the pecorino cheese is more commonly sprinkled over cooked pasta with this pesto.
Ingredients for the pesto Trapanese
Garlic – As already mentioned, the garlic is the main star of this pesto. In fact, in this recipe traditionally a garlic clove is used per person! Of course, you can dose this to your liking but do not skimp on the garlic, as you would lose the unique authentic flavour of this pesto.
Tomatoes – There are several tomatoes that are great for this pesto! Ideally, the ones you use are fresh and juicy, as this will guarantee a wonderful pesto.
Basil – Using fresh leaves will add an added touch of freshness to balance out the whole pesto.
Almonds – Using already blanched almonds will save you time as you won’t need to remove their brownish skin. I wouldn’t recommend using already fine almonds, as you want to get a bite from the almonds in this pesto.
Olive oil – Of course, as always, using the best olive oil you can find, will make this pesto incredible! The olive oil is the base to combine all the ingredients together.
Salt – I like to use coarse sea salt for this pesto as this helps break the garlic even more and enhances the flavour even further.
Pepper – Use pepper according to your taste!
Pecorino cheese – Traditionally, cheese was used only to finish off the pesto pasta dish. However, lately it’s become common that a small amount is added in the pesto itself. If you are adding it to the pesto, I would recommend to be careful and taste as you go so no to over salt the pesto.
How to make this pesto
Even though making this pesto is relatively easy, you still need to be careful to get the desired consistency. For this reason, ideally a pestle and mortar are used. Start by crushing the garlic with the salt, until it’s all crushed and you start achieving a paste like consistency. Add the almonds and crush them but do not pulverize them. We need to have a bit of a bite from the nuts. Add in the basil and break it in. Now add in the chopped tomatoes and crush them until the sauce starts to form.
Once you have most of the tomatoes crushed but with some of them not entirely crushed, add the olive oil gently and the pepper. Crush them a bit more until it’s combined. Season to taste! The pesto needs to have a grainy coarse texture so it’s ok if some of the ingredients aren’t fully broken down. Lastly, if you want, you can add some grate pecorino cheese to the pesto; although this is optional at this stage.
Should you peel your tomatoes?
Technically no, but you can. If using small tomatoes such as cherry tomatoes, you can leave the peel on. However, when using larger meaty tomatoes you can peel them. To do so you need to blanch the tomatoes for a couple of seconds so that the skin becomes easier to peel. At the bottom of each tomato score a small ‘x’ with a sharp knife. In the meantime, put a pot of water to boil and add the tomatoes. Let them boil for about 30 to 60 seconds, this mainly depends on how big the tomatoes are, and until the skin on the ‘x’ starts to peel off. Remove the tomatoes and drop them in a bowl filled with ice cold water. Peel the tomatoes and chop them up into chunks.
How to serve this pesto?
This pesto is traditionally used with pasta, specifically busiate pasta. In Sicily they like to add on top of the pasta, some fries, fried zucchini slices or even fish. Other common toppings for this pesto pasta are breadcrumbs (what I have used here), or even served with roasted sausage.
Can I use the mixer instead?
Although, traditionally this pesto calls for the pestle and mortar to be used, the mixer can be used. However, be careful on how to use the mixer so not to get a liquid smooth pesto. For a good pesto in the mixer, start by slightly blitzing the garlic, salt and almonds. Add the basil and blitz for a few intervals. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes, olive oil, and blitz for just a few times until the tomatoes start breaking down.
Can I store the pesto?
As always, the pesto is best prepared the same day you want to serve it. However, you can of course prepare it in advance and store it in the fridge, in an airtight container for not more than 3 days.
Pesto Trapanese – Sicilian Pesto
- 340 g busiate pasta gemelli, casarece, fusilli etc
- 300 g chopped tomatoes cherry, pachino, piccadilly, grape, pizzutello etc…
- 50 g basil leaves
- 50 g blanched almonds
- 4 garlic cloves
- 40 ml olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse salt add more to taste
- pepper to taste
- 30 g pecorino cheese optional
- In a large pot, cook the pasta until al dente in salted water according to the instructions on the package
- In a pestle with a mortar start by crushing the garlic and the salt. Once they are paste like add the almonds and crush them. Add the basil and break everything down until it is all nice and green.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and crush until it looks like a thick paste. Start adding the olive oil slowly while continuing crushing the pesto. Season with pepper and taste.
- If it is needed add some more salt. At this step, you can also add in some pecorino cheese. However, the latter is optional at this point. Set aside the pesto trapanese until ready to use.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it but set aside about half a cup of the pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the pan with the pesto trapanese, and the pasta water. Mix well together.
- Serve immediately, with some toasted breadcrumbs on top and freshly grated pecorino cheese.
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