A Recipe from Sicily . . . Pesto Trapanese.

When speaking of Pesto, the Italian region of Liguria naturally comes to mind. It is in fact in this region that one of the best known Italian recipes originated. In one of my previous posts I have already shared a variation of the traditional Pesto Ligure, the Trenette Avvantagiae The recipe however, was still one of the Italian Riviera.

Today I will share a new variation, this time from the region of Sicilia, specifically from the city of Trapani. You might be wondering about the connection between these two regions so far apart.

Genova, as you might know, between the 10th and 13th centuries, was one the four Repubbliche Marinare practicing extensive trading in the Mediterranean and partecipating in the Crusades. During their journeys, the Genoese ships, coming from the East, used to stop in Trapani, which was one of Sicily’s most important harbors. The Genoese sailors introduced the Ligurian pesto to the local sailors who in turn adapted the recipe to their traditions and local produces, such as mandorle (almonds) and pomodori (tomatoes).

A summer dish whose secrets lies in the quality and fresheness of its ingredients. Hot pasta is simply tossed into this hearty, creamy sauce for a simple yet satisfying meal. The cut of pasta traditionally used is called busiati, a fresh pasta, which is similar to the maccheroni al ferro and fusilli. These shapes of pasta all have in common the way they are made, with the aid of a “ferro” (similar to knitting needle) or a “ buso” – hence the name busiati – (a wooden stick from a local plant). In my dish I used dry maccheroni that I was fortunate to find at my local grocery store.

Fusilli would be a perfect option and I, personally, wouldn’t mind using this sauce with bucatini.

The Pesto Trapanese is also characterized by the absence of cheese, however, in my recipe I did add some pecorino cheese. I also used cherry tomatoes rather then regular tomatoes. Using the cherry tomatoes allows for a shorter time in the food processor which subsequently helps in keeping the texture of the almonds.

Note: traditionally a mortar and pestle should be used.

Enjoy the recipe with a glass of chilled Regaleali Bianco di Sicilia!

 La Mia Ricetta

Maccheroni con Pesto Trapanese

Cosa Serve (What is needed)

1-1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (ripe)

15 leaves of fresh basil

1 cup of whole almond

1 clove of garlic peeled, cut in half and inner green core removed.

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

kosher salt

1 pound of fusilli or bucatini


Cosa Fare (What to do)

Put the food processor bowl and its blade in the fridge (this will prevent the basil from becoming dark).

In a large pasta pot bring the water to boil. You will use the boiling water first to blanch the almond and the tomatoes, and then to cook the pasta.

Rinse the cherry tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze out the seeds.

Clean the basil with a damp kitchen towel.

When the water start boiling add the almonds and after 70 seconds add the tomatoes.

After 20 seconds, with a skimmer, pull both the almonds and the tomatoes out of the water and transfer to a colander. Add salt to the boiling water, lower the heat and cover to keep the temperature just below boiling.

Peel the tomatoes and set aside.

Skin the almonds and transfer to a small frying pan.

Slightly toast the almond and then let them cool completely.

Once the almond have cool down you are ready to assemble the sauce. At this time you are also ready to cook your pasta. Turn the heat up, bring the water to boil and cook your pasta “ al dente”!

In the food processor grind the almond, garlic and salt.

When the almonds are roughly chopped, add the basil.

Pulse until all the basil looks like is finely chopped and blended with the almonds. The mixture should result creamy but at the same time grainy. You should be able to see and feel small bits of almonds.

Add the tomatoes and pulse until they blend into the mixture.

Lastly add the pecorino cheese and the oil and pulse to blend.

Spoon 1/2 of the sauce into a large serving bowl and diluted with some of the pasta water.

Drain the pasta and drop into the bowl and toss quickly to coat the pasta. Add the remaining sauce and toss again.

Serve in individual bowl with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese.


15 thoughts on “A Recipe from Sicily . . . Pesto Trapanese.

  1. Pingback: Now here’s a red wine that was made to be drunk chilled | Rubber Slippers In Italy

  2. My Oh My Oh My! I have such an overload of basil (and buy almonds in bulk at Whole Foods!), this sounds perfect for using them. Thanks so much for the recipe, and the dish looks divine. Can’t wait to try this one!


  3. With the datterini that are slowly ripening in my garden, I will have to give this recipe a shot (also because I still have a big chunk of sicilian pecorino with pepe nero hanging out in the fridge). Stumbled upon our site through blog-hopping, and the first thing to catch my eye is the maccheroni pasta. I’ve been hunting all over for those ever since I had them at restaurant (recently), but can’t seem to find them at Esselunga or Bennet supermarkets. Can you tell me where you got yours? Thanks!


  4. I was right there with you, MariaGiovanna, until you started skinning the almonds! Do I HAVE to? 😉 Would the recipe be just (almost) as good if I used a package of blanched almonds?


    1. Haha…Robin, it’s easier than you think, once you blanch the almonds, the skin slips right off just between your fingers. Any way I would think that using pachaged blanced almonds would be just fine. I have also seen recipes where the almond have been used with the skin on and without roasting. Just let me know how your dish comes out :-)))


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