July 16, 2009

pesto trapanese

With my first harvest of summer basil I made a basic pesto, also known as pesto genovese as it is characteristic of the cuisine of Genova in the region of Liguria in northern Italy.

The name, pesto, is a generic name for any raw sauce which is made from crushed fresh ingredients, often including basil, and is likely derived from the method of preparation for this sauce: "pestare" means to pound or to crush and this sauce is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle ("mortaio e pestello").

Pesto genovese is the most famous pesto but is by no means the only great pesto to be found in Italian cuisine and with the rest of my first basil harvest I decided to make pesto trapanese using a recipe from Lidia Bastianich, one of my favourite Italian chefs. Her recipes are authentic, simple and always delicious and this one is no exception.

Pesto trapanese is a delightful change of pace from the pesto most North Americans are familiar with and comes together literally in minutes.
Instead of pine nuts, this Sicilian pesto calls for almonds - many recipes suggest using blanched almonds but I took my cue from Lidia and used raw whole almonds. Unlike the pine nuts which virtually melt into the pesto genovese, the almonds here retain their personality and crunch, adding texture to the sauce.
Pesto trapanese also contains tomatoes, which add sweetness and emulsify with the olive oil to create a textural contrast to the crunchiness of the almonds. Basil, of course, is omnipresent.
When the pasta is tossed with the pesto, the residual heat warms up the tomatoes, almonds and basil and releases an intoxicating fragrance that will bring summer into your kitchen no matter the time of year.

Hop on over to Eats Well With Others where Joanne is this week's Presto Pasta Nights host - the roundup will be posted on Friday.


  1. I love Lidia, as well. This looks delicious - and you're right, I've never seen a non-green pesto (I also didn't realize it was an umbrella term). Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Thanks for submitting to Presto Pasta! I love any and all variations on pesto.

  3. I love Lidia too. this is great. I plan to make some soon.

  4. I always sub almonds for pine nuts too! I just like the taste better.
    Looks awesome, your pictures are gorgeous.

  5. That looks fabulous - I'll have to try that recipe. There are few tastier food combos than fresh basil and tomatoes :)