Thursday, 20 June 2013

Meet Me in Trapani!

Pasta con Pesto alla Trapanese Sbrigativo
Pasta with a Quick Trapanese Tomato & Almond Pesto

Back to The Old Country for supper this evening- for my version of a Sicilian classic, brought up to date and made quick and easy for you all whilst being lighter and every bit as delicious as anything you might get served in Trapani... I think you are going to like this! I know that I did!

Some really simple dishes get overlooked, whilst others receive a lot of attention and praise- I guess that is just the way of the culinary world! But forget your spaghetti Bolognese, pesto Genovese or pasta alla arrabiata- especially in the hot Summer months, let this Trapanese treat become a family favorite and enjoy something just a teensy bit different- and totally terrific!

A pesto is a great way to "dress" and flavor your pasta, without having to make a time-consuming or complicated sauce, this is true. Especially if you just scoop some out of a jar, right? Just kidding! Of course pesto is quick and easy to make, but how many of you go to the trouble of pounding the basil, pine nuts and garlic together in a mortar and pestle... or even in a mixer, when you only need enough for one or two servings? You have to have a certain quantity for it to be worthwhile- and indeed, if you are using a machine, for it to work well. You are going to need a LOT of basil and quite a bit of oil... and those pine nuts- well, they
are kinda pricey to be honest.

So here is a lighter alternative- a little fresher tasting, a lot less expensive, with less calories whilst being more delicious and much more fun... all that and the fact that you need neither a mortar and pestle nor any kind of machine- and what's not to like? But get your knife sharpened and get ready to get chopping all the same!

For 2 portions of pasta, I used 4 cherry tomatoes, just a half of a clove of garlic- people tend to over-do the garlic and I think that's a shame, 2 handfuls of basil, 1 handful of parsley, 1 Spring onion, 4 tablespoons of ground almonds and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. The first thing I did, was to toast the ground almonds in a dry frying pan- this brings out the flavor really wonderfully and adds a nice bite and crunch to the pesto. I just used the inexpensive, ground almonds you get at any supermarket in the baking department- the kind you would use for cakes. The traditional recipes will call for you blanching freshly-cracked almonds, removing the skin, toasting them whole and then pounding them to a pulp in the mortar and pestle... but trust me... they can forgeddaboudit! And so can you! Really, there is no need, because after 3-4 minutes, the almonds are done- toasty and delicious as an almond can ever taste- it's a simple as that! So you can set them aside to cool off... and pop your saucepan onto the hot stove to get your pasta boiling... 

And then get busy with chopping those herbs! Chop everything as finely as you can, including the onion and garlic, dice the tomato as finely as you can manage and retain the juices and scoop everything into a bowl. Add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt, pepper, a tiny pinch of sugar and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, then add the toasted, ground almonds and the Parmesan and stir everything together. I much prefer this rustic, slightly more chunky consistency- oh, absolutely! All of the individual flavors come through so much better, the color is nicer and it is simply and much better result! But what do I know? Try it yourselves and find out!

All you need to do is to add your hot, freshly drained pasta- I used Gemelli in this case and toss them thoroughly in the pesto- that's it! Everything is right in there- seasoning, cheese and all!  So "buona cena" as we say back home- have a good meal and enjoy! 


  1. I really enjoy pesto alla trapanese, although I have to admit, I may be one of those who overdo on the garlic... I'll have to try your updated version soon.

  2. Frank- I am absolutely positive that if you make a pesto- it will be more than delicious! I just like to try to get a subtle balance in flavors into my food if I can, rather than do the "more is more" thing. You're Italian Frank, so you're exempt from this remark... but I kind-of hate how a lot of people overpower a lot of dishes with garlic, thinking that makes them taste more Mediterranean... frankly- it just ruins them. Plus... you won't be getting so many kisses... not that I do anyway! But that's another story! Happy cooking amico mio- always good hearing from you! Francesco