One of our favorites as far as pasta sauces go is summery, bright green pesto Genoevse (basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil). When we start to see cherry blossoms on the trees and get a whiff of spring in the air (like right about now….) I start counting down the days until we begin to find giant bunches of fragrant Italian basil at the farmer’s market. My kids have gotten past the aggressively green hue of pesto Genovese and happily scarf it up and I always keep a special, secret little hoard in the way back of my freezer just for me.
Another wonderful pesto my family has discovered is the lesser known pesto Trapanese from Southern Italy. Like it’s northen cousin, it’s an easy and amazing vegetarian summer recipe — in this case showcasing sweet, flavorful cherry tomatoes or our favorite “dry-farmed” early girl variety — but we enjoy this sauce so much that we have adapted the recipe, substituting high quality canned tomatoes, so that we can keep making it during the non-tomato season months. It does change the flavor a bit — you lose some of that magical, mouth watering, sweet-tart flavor of fresh tomatoes (and I’m, sure it would offend the sensibility of pesto Trapanese purists out there) ……. but we think both versions are delicious and in the end I guess that’s all that really matters.
What I like about pestos in general is their fresh zingyness; how quickly they come together (pestos are a fantastic easy cooking project for kids); and their consistency which, thanks to ground nuts, cheese and herbs, tends to be just perfect for clinging to pasta. The almonds in this particular pesto add a wonderful complexity of flavor and also an added dash of protein, healthy fat, fiber, vitamin E and other good stuff. Assuming your family doesn’t suffer from nut allergies, it’s a nice way to add a little extra nutritional oomph to a basic tomato sauce without having to work too hard in the kitchen.
Sicilian Pesto Trapense
Add to blender and puree until you have a smooth consistency:
- 1 pound of the best fresh tomatoes you can find (or substitute a 14 oz can of your favorite canned tomatoes — we like San Marzano. If using canned, I often lightly simmer the tomatoes with a little olive oil for 15 minutes while I’m gathering the rest of my ingredients).
- 1 small clove of garlic (since the intensity of garlic can vary a lot, start with a small amount and add more at the end if you like)
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
2. With the blender running, add olive oil in a slow stream until the sauce is emulsified and you are happy with the consistency. About 1/4 -1/3 cup will do. With such a simple sauce the quality of your olive oil can make a big difference, so this is the time to break out the good stuff!!!
3. Taste and correct seasoning (add more salt, garlic, etc). Use right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
4. Dress your cooked pasta with the pesto (if you have refrigerated it, let it come up to room temperature first). Reserve some of the pasta water and add a spoonful to the dressed pasta if the sauce needs to be loosened up a bit. Serve with plenty of grated parmegiano reggiano.