Spaghetti With Pesto Trapanese


1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup (80 gr) almonds (if you can get the Sicilian ones from Noto they are wonderful)
2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 1/2 cups (60 gr) basil
Salt and pepper as needed
Ricotta salata or pecorino, to be grated fresh over the past


Place a large (this is key) pot of water to boil. Salt when it boils, not before.
Meanwhile, make the pesto: In a mortar (or use a food processor with a blade) pound together the oil, almonds and pine-nuts. Add the garlic, 2 ice cubes and the rest of the ingredients, pounding quickly to make a paste.You want to leave a bit of a texture for crunch.
Cook the pasta al dente, as per directions, drain and reserve some of the boiling water. Toss the pasta with the pesto, using some of the reserved water to make it creamier. Grate some fresh pecorino or ricotta salata (or both) over and serve hot with a leaf of basil to garnish.


You are all familiar with the traditional pesto (basil pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan and garlic) from Genoa but in Sicily (in Trapani, specifically) they add a twist: blanched almonds, tomatoes and pecorino (or ricotta salata) and call it “pasta cull’agghia” (pasta with garlic). This makes the sauce very rich and crunchy. While the Trapani version is the most popular, there are many different variations to this pesto, depending on where you are in Sicily. In the Eolian islands they add salt packed capers (their specialty) and pistachios. In other places, they roast the tomatoes (and or add sun dried tomatoes) to provide further richness. Some others roast the almonds (the purist would cringe!), and yet some others add bread crumbs. Finally some like it hot and add chili pepper.
Either way you make it, try this pesto with "busiati"...if you feel like making home made pasta. It is a very simple flour and water dough that is quickly rolled around the “busu” (or knitting needle) to obtain a sort of “fusillo” (twisted long pasta).

Recipe adapted from "Cucina Siciliana" by Ciccio Sultano.
NOTE: the writer uses this pesto as a dipping sauce for fried fish.




Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 9:29am

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