Course 2: Pesto alla Trapanese

Share |

First of all, what is pesto alla trapanese? The word “trapanese” means “of Trapani,”
a town on the northwest coast of Sicily. Most people are familiar with the typical Ligurian pesto: lots of basil, olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, pine nuts, and garlic. Historically, Genovese (Ligurian) ships would stop in Trapani on their way to and from the Far East. They brought pesto, and Sicilians altered the recipe by using local ingredients, namely tomatoes and almonds. Although there is basil in the trapanese recipe, it is more a supporting character than the star, and the dish has
a subtle and satisfying appeal.

So why pair this pasta with the robust Olive Press Italian Blend extra virgin olive oil? When I think of southern Italian food, I think of intense, sun-baked flavors: red peppers, tomatoes, olives, capers. Likewise, southern Italian olive oil is usually very intense, so I thought a pungent and peppery olive oil would work well here.

Post 3 in a series of 5. Click here to see the premise of the 4-course
evoo-inspired meal.

Pesto alla Trapanese
Serves 4 as entrée, 6 as first course (or, in this case, second course)

1/4 cup slivered almonds
6 canned plum tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup Olive Press Italian Blend EVOO
1 lb fresh tagliatelle
1 cup caciocavallo or southern Italian pecorino cheese, finely grated

Heat water to boil for the pasta.

In a small sauté pan, toast the almond slivers over medium-low heat, watching carefully that they don’t burn. Set aside to cool.

Wash and dry the basil in a salad spinner. Grate the cheese and divide into two equal piles (1/2 cup each).

In a food processor, combine the almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Pulse to combine for 15 seconds. Wipe down sides with a spatula. With the motor running, add the olive oil slowly, about 15 seconds.


When the water is boiling, add two small handfuls of coarse sea salt and stir to dissolve. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, leaving 1/4 cup of water in the pan. Return the drained pasta to the pan and add the pesto and 1/2 cup of the cheese and stir to combine.

Divide the pasta among plates, garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Cook’s notes:

  • I am using canned tomatoes because it’s winter and fresh tomatoes should only be consumed in summer.
  • I like fresh pasta in this recipe because it soaks up the sauce so much more than dried, but if it is not available in your area, I recommend Martelli spaghetti.
  • I could not find caciocavallo, but my local cheese shop had a pecorino from Puglia that had nut and subtle banana flavors. Feel free to use Parmesan if you can’t find any of these. (As long as it doesn’t come pre-grated in that plastic green bottle! Freshly grated, by you, from a chunk of the real thing, please). Like I always say, half your work is done when you use the right ingredients; the other half is simply you introducing them to each other.


Mar. 01 2010 |
let there be bite twitter let there be bite facebook let there be bite youtube