tomato almond pesto (siciliano, trapanese)

My first final destination in Italy was Trapani, the airport that is. Sicily via Rome. We had to 4 wheel it up the mountain to the top where the little village of Erice is located, for a physics workshop on Relativistic Cosmology in 1975, my first air trip, my first trip across the ocean, my first impact with Italy on its own soil. There was a baggage handlers' strike in Rome on arrival, so we had to carry our own baggage from the plane to the terminal. Maybe it was the return flight from Trapani, not sure. So many years ago. The only food I recall from those two weeks in November was raw octopus salad. Kind of rubbery and not worth trying a second time as I recall, although now we are addicted to grilled octopus, thanks to philly restauranteur Dimitri.

Ani and I discovered this Sicilian pesto nearly 34 years later in the summer of 2009, our first Roman summer together, a whole summer spent as Romans. Okay, as temporary expatriate-Americans. We impulse bought a jar in some Roman supermarket and were pleasantly surprised. The following winter during a brief visit to the in-laws on Valentine's Day while catching a bit of Sunday public TV, Lidia reminded us again of this recipe after having actually found it at Whole Foods, USA. So inspired by our current top choice Italian celebrity cook, we decided it was time to try ourselves. And armed with our past experience from a similar variation of classic pesto, sundried tomato pesto, we knew this would be a rewarding experience.

ingredients

3/4 lb (about 2-1/2 c) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet (we can always hope)
12 large fresh basil leaves
1/3 c whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano

instructions

  1. Get your big pot of pasta water boiling unless you have a super burner that does the job in a couple minutes, in which case you can delay this. Big means at least a 6 qt pot.
  2. Make sure you lightly toast the almonds in a nonstick pan to bring out their flavor. Just takes a few minutes.
  3. Prep the tomatoes and basil but rinsing and patting dry.
  4. Food process the tomatoes first, then dump in the basil, garlic, peperoncino and salt and process another minute or so until a smooth result is achieved. Scrape down the sides and continue if necessary. Then slowly pour in the olive oil while processing the mixture.
  5. Cook the spaghetti with a T of salt until al dente. Drain.
  6. Combine with the room temperature pesto sauce in a big bowl or the original pasta pot. Mix in the cheese quickly and serve!

notes

  1. 34 years later? How did bob get to be a few years short of sixty already? He feels a lot younger in his head. But then don't we all. The body, sometimes not.
  2. Lidia's Italy: Spaghetti alla Pesto Trapanese alla Anna. We trust Lidia.
  3. Mario Batalli: Spaghetti al Pesto Trapanesi. We ate in one of his restaurants (Estia) once years ago, and are fans of his various TV shows.
  4. Cooking with Amy: Trapanese pesto.
  5. SippitySup: Pesto Trapanese.
  6. Dimitri's grilled octopus. Dmitri opened a third spot in philly in 2010, maybe someday we will try it. Love that grilled octopus.
  7. Illustrations available.
pestotrapanese.htm: 2-oct-2011 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]