Saturday, March 7, 2009

Recipe: Lydia Matticchio's Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese

Saw this on PBS and just had to post it... can't wait to give it a try...


Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese

Spaghetti alla Pesto Trapanese alla Anna

Serves 4 to 6

The beauty and delight of this dish is that it is so fresh and clean-and it is a cinch to make. It’s important to make the pesto with the best ingredients then just toss in the hot cooked spaghetti to coat it and enjoy.


¾ pound (about 2-1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 large fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 plump garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Recommended equipment:

· A blender (my preference) or a food processor
· A pot for cooking the spaghetti

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and ½ tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature.

Refrigerate if for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.


i like this version too (especially the part where the cherry tomatos are "blistered ik a dry skillet"). i think this might had a more rich, complex flavor to the pesto....

Dinner Tonight: Pesto Trapanese

I'm usually suspicious of any alterations to traditional basil pesto—those fancy, misguided ideas like trading out pine nuts for pistachios. "Don't mess with perfection," is my feeling. Except in many cases, these other pestos aren't trying to mess up a good thing—they're traditions of their own. Pine nuts, basil, Parmesan, and olive oil may be the most popular and arguably the most sublime of these concoctions (known officially as pesto Genovese), but there are others great ones, like this one from Sicily: pesto Trapanese.

Other than replacing pine nuts with almonds, it's not a sweeping change. But the recipe also adds cherry tomatoes, and they offer a little sweetness. Their crushed juices also help counteract the relative dryness of the almonds, which, unlike softer pine nuts, refuse to give themselves up to the pesto—they remain distinct and crunchy, adding a wonderful textural interest to the dish that pesto Genovese sometimes lacks. I found that a little pasta water was the essential step to keep it from drying out too much and helping to bind everything together.

About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it here at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.

Pesto Trapanese with Spaghetti

- serves 4 -
Adapted from
Jamie's Italy


1 pound spaghetti
1/4 pound almonds, skin on or off
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 large handfuls fresh basil leaves
5 oz grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Good olive oil
1 pound cherry tomatoes, blistered in a dry skillet


1. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, warm the almonds in a dry pan until just lightly toasted, then transfer to a food processor and process into a coarse powder. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the basil and garlic with a little oil to the food processor, blend, then stir into the almonds.

3. Add the cheese, then squeeze the tomatoes and their juice into the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add oil to loosen the mixture until it's the right pesto consistency. Add some pasta water if it's getting too oily.

4. Toss the cooked pasta with the pesto, reserving some pasta water to add (if necessary) to keep it from drying out. Serve immediately.

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