Most of the time, when we think of pesto, we immediately think of the basil-rich pesto that paints a layer of green on our pasta. However, pesto does not have to be green! It does not have to have basil. Pesto is a sauce containing nuts, fresh herbs, and olive oil. The word pesto derives from pesta or pestare, which means "to pound" or "to crush."
Pesto alla Trapanese is a Sicilian variation of pesto where tomatoes highlight the sauce replacing the more traditional basil and almonds replace the pine nuts. It is also known as Pesto alla Siciliana or Pesto Rosso. Traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, this sauce does not need cooking. If a mortar and pestle is not a tool you choose to use, save time and labor using a food processor. Serve this pesto with your favorite pasta or with fish or chicken. It is sure to satisfy those at your dinner table!
Pesto alla Trapanese, Almond and Tomato Pesto
1½ lb plum tomatoes
½ cup almonds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, grated with a microplane
⅛ tsp red pepper flake
⅓ cup packed basil leaves
½ cup grated cheese, pecorino, or a 50/50 mix of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼-⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb cooked pasta
Boil a pot of water. Remove the core from the tomatoes and make a small X incision on each tomato's top side. Place tomatoes in the boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skin starts to fracture. Remove tomatoes from the boiling water and plunge in an ice bath. Using a paring knife, peel back the skin on the tomatoes, then cut each tomato into quarters and remove the seeds.
In a food processor, pulse almonds into little crumbs. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Pulse to incorporate, then add the basil, cheese, and tomatoes. Blend well while pouring in the olive oil. You can adjust the consistency with oil or a splash of water—season with salt. Serve over your favorite pasta.
Chef Liza Greifinger
Your Guide to Our Culinary Trip Around the World
Growing up in New York, surrounded by the flavors of the world, Liza developed a love for food and cooking. After a fulfilling career in outdoor education, she decided to explore her passion for food. Liza studied at The French Culinary Institute and then trained with some of the top chefs in New York City before being drawn to the mountains of Colorado. She joined the team at Food Lab, in Boulder, in the spring of 2016. There she teaches cooking skills and technique to all ages as well as curriculum development for the educational programs.