Best Trapanese Pesto Recipe - How to Make Trapanese Pesto

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A Sicilian spin on Ligurian pesto that adds almonds and tomatoes to the basil
Milk Street Bowtie Pasta with Trapanese Pesto

Pasta with Trapanese Pesto

Appears in July-August 2017

30 minutes

Pasta with Trapanese Pesto

Free

We hear “pesto” and see shades of green, but the word refers to prep, not pigment. It stems from pestare, to pound—this Italian sauce traditionally was made with a mortar and pestle. The basil-heavy, and therefore green, version we know best comes from northwestern Italy. In Sicily, you’ll find pesto Trapanese (named for the town of Trapani), a sauce also known as mataroccu. It has less basil than the northern version and adds tomatoes, garlic and almonds, the latter a nod to Sicily’s Arabic heritage. To make this a truly year-round recipe we ruled out standard winter tomatoes and instead settled on cherry tomatoes, though grape or small plum tomatoes worked, too. For ease, we used a food processor, though we found it was best to incorporate the olive oil or cheese (pecorino) by hand at the end. Raw almonds are common, but we found them a little dull. When we toasted them, however, we were wowed by how they brought out the sweetness of the tomato, added a crispier crunch and improved the balance of the dish. We preferred blanched, slivered almonds, which were easiest to toast and grind, but any variety is fine.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t add the cooking water to the sauce right away. While we always reserve some starchy cooking water before draining pasta, we didn't always need it for this sauce, which gets ample moisture from the tomatoes.

30 minutes

4 ounces whole, skin-on almonds (about 1 cup), toasted
1 small garlic clove, grated
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound cherry tomatoes
3/4 ounce fresh basil leaves (1 cup lightly packed)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce grated pecorino cheese (½ cup), plus more to serve
12 ounces short, sturdy pasta, such as rigatoni or gemelli
Ingredients
  • 4

    ounces whole, skin-on almonds (about 1 cup), toasted

  • 1

    small garlic clove, grated

  • ¼

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1

    pound cherry tomatoes

  • ¾

    ounce fresh basil leaves (1 cup lightly packed)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • ½
  • 1

    ounce grated pecorino cheese (½ cup), plus more to serve

  • 12

    ounces short, sturdy pasta, such as rigatoni or gemelli

Sicilian Pesto in 30 Minutes

Milk Street Recipes

Sicilian Pesto in 30 Minutes

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Pasta with Trapanese Pesto

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4

Servings

30 minutes

Tip

Don’t add the cooking water to the sauce right away. While we always reserve some starchy cooking water before draining pasta, we didn't always need it for this sauce, which gets ample moisture from the tomatoes.

Ingredients
  • 4

    ounces whole, skin-on almonds (about 1 cup), toasted

  • 1

    small garlic clove, grated

  • ¼

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1

    pound cherry tomatoes

  • ¾

    ounce fresh basil leaves (1 cup lightly packed)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • ½
  • 1

    ounce grated pecorino cheese (½ cup), plus more to serve

  • 12

    ounces short, sturdy pasta, such as rigatoni or gemelli

Sicilian Pesto in 30 Minutes

Milk Street Recipes

Sicilian Pesto in 30 Minutes

Step 1 of 2

Make the Pesto

4
quarts of water
4
ounces whole, skin-on almonds (about 1 cup), toasted
1
small garlic clove, grated
¼
teaspoon red pepper flakes
1
pound cherry tomatoes
¾
ounce fresh basil leaves (1 cup lightly packed)
¼
teaspoon salt

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the almonds, garlic and pepper flakes. Process until coarsely ground, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Pulse until uniformly ground but still chunky, 10 to 12 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil and cheese.

Step 2 of 2
12
ounces short, sturdy pasta, such as rigatoni or gemelli
1
tablespoon salt
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1
ounce grated pecorino cheese (½ cup), plus more to serve

To the boiling water, add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the bowl with the pesto and toss. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Taste and season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and more cheese.

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Done!

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