Pesto alla Trapanese is sometimes referred to as “pesto alla Siciliana”, or “pasta cull’agghia” in the native Sicilian dialect. The dish hails from the port city of Trapani, on Sicily’s West Coast. Known as the “City of the Two Seas”, we can thank Trapani’s rich maritime heritage for this vibrant pesto. Pesto alla Trapanese traces back to ancient times, when Genovese ships travelling from the East would dock in Trapani, its crew introducing an early iteration of the famed pesto alla Genovese to natives. While the modern pesto alla Genovese (or basil pesto from Genova) is immediately recognisable, the ‘original’ Genovese pesto was a simple ‘agliata’ - a rustic sauce of garlic and walnuts.
Captivated by this moreish sauce, Trapanese natives adjusted the recipe, making use of local produce that flourish in abundance on the island - specifically, tomatoes and almonds. And thus, Pesto alla Trapanese was born. Fresh Sicilian tomatoes are ground with rich almonds, basil, olive oil, and a touch of cheese, resulting in a vibrant yet creamy pesto that pairs delightfully with strands of fresh tagliatelle or bucatini. A further scattering of cheese rounds out this dish, a celebration of the “City of the Two Seas”, and Sicily’s lively culinary landscape.
Sicilian pesto alla Trapanese recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 179 kcal per serving (excludes pasta)
- 400g ripe tomatoes
- 1 cup basil, cleaned and chopped
- ½ cup blanched almonds
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup grated Italian cheese (To make this dish vegan, simply omit this ingredient)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Pestle and mortar
Chef’s tip: If you don’t have a pestle and mortar at home, you can use a food processor. We like a pesto that has a slightly rustic texture so be sure not to over grind.
- Heat a pot of water until boiling. Score a cross on the top of your tomatoes, before adding to the pot, and blanching for around 20 seconds. Once this time has elapsed, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, peel off the skin of the tomatoes and set to one side.
- Add the blanched almonds and garlic to a pestle and mortar, and begin to crush the contents, before grinding in a circular motion, to form a rugged paste. You may need to do this in more than one batch. Remove the contents from the mortar, and set to one side.
- Put the basil and salt in the mortar and grind until creamy. Add the hard cheese and the almond and garlic paste back to the mortar, and combine. Gradually add the peeled tomatoes, continuing to grind, until they break down and combine with the mixture. If you're working with a small mortar, you may need to do this step gradually.
- Slowly drizzle as much olive oil as necessary into the mixture, and continue mixing until a rugged and loose paste is formed. We recommend leaving the pesto a little rustic, as this will help it adhere to the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- The pesto is best eaten straight away, but can be kept in clean mason jars and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
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