Tomato and Almond Pesto, pesto alla Trapanese, is from the Trapani province in Northwest Sicily. Almonds are native to Sicily, and so in this offbeat, rosy-hued pesto, almonds replace pine nuts and cherry tomatoes add color and tartness to the mix. We love this pesto for its mellow, complex and fruity flavor and have been making it for years, unfortunately, some ‘technical issues’ have gotten in the way of publishing it on the blog.
There was the time I forgot to attach the lid to the food processor and the pesto ended up streaking the ceiling. In my next attempt, I managed to actually make the pesto, but then took a whole bunch of yummy looking pictures without a card in the camera. Determined to make and photograph it my third attempt, I got mid-way through the recipe before realizing that I didn’t have parmesan, so I substituted a mysterious fridge cheese and created a monster of a dish with a vomitus appearance and nasty bitter flavor. At this point I gave up until, in an attempt to escape afternoon house projects this weekend, I volunteered to make lunch, and commenced my final attempt to make and photograph tomato and almond pesto for our blog. I had forgotten how good and easy it really is! Some take home reflections: secure lids on all kitchen devices; don’t bother photographing your food, just eat it; stick with parmesan cheese; and ditch plain-Jane basil pesto and make it’s funkier Sicilian cousin with almonds and tomatoes. As we move into fall, and warm pasta dishes begin to sound cozy, try whipping up another of our easy weeknight pasta recipes: Chorizo & Feta Pasta. This recipe is adapted from Saveur and Cooks Illustrated.
Yield: Serves 4
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves (about 12 large leaves)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch cayenne
- 1/3 cup olive oil/canola oil (do not use extra virgin olive oil unless hand whisked)
- 3/4 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked al dente
- Bring pasta water to boil in a medium pot. Cook pasta al dente, just a hint away from done.
- While the pasta is cooking, toast the almonds in a small skillet on medium heat until fragrant and golden brown (about 2-5 minutes), watch and stir frequently to prevent burning.
- Pour the almonds in a blender or food processor, and add the tomatoes, basil, salt, garlic, black pepper, parmesan, and lemon juice. Puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl a number of times to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed and it is a thick but not completely smooth mixture.
- Pour the olive oil into the pesto mixture in a steady stream while the machine is still running. Blend briefly until combined. Note, if using extra virgin olive oil do not mix in the blender, see notes below.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain, and toss it with the pesto. Add additional cooking water to help the sauce coat the pasta if needed. Taste, add additional salt to taste and sprinkle with extra parmesan, basil and toasted almonds to your preference.
- Extra virgin olive blended in a blender makes sauces taste bitter. If you would like to use EVOO for the flavor, whisk it in by hand at the end.
- This pesto can be made ahead of time, but will darken as the basil oxidizes.
- This dish is good hot or at room temperature and is excellent as a leftover baked with a cheesy topping
- This pesto is also great served with carrot or zucchini noodles, with grilled proteins, grilled vegetables, in scrambled eggs or on crusty bread.