I believe I have not hidden my devotion to America’s Test Kitchen and their rigourous testing-tasting, tasting-testing, or whatever their process is for creating the best never-fail recipes. ATK has never let me down.
When I came across ATK’s version of pesto, as served in Trapani, Sicily, it made me decide to make it right away. I did not have such a sauce during a trip to Sicily, but all the foods were memorable in Sicily and the Aolian island of Lipari, including the blood oranges everywhere (the inspiration for my blood orange marmalade). So the combination of ATK with Sicily seemed like a major convergence of culinary imperative.
Living on an island not even as large as Lipari (and, of course, nowhere as big as Sicily itself), there are certain ingredients not always available. With the urgency of making this sauce, I could not find any decent cherry tomatoes, in mid-June, so I had to resort to an island act of forced creativity, substituting a tin of Italian cherry tomatoes in its place. This is not as much a locavore’s meal as is possible, though one could argue that it is more authentic in its Italian origins (olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the said tomatoes all hailed from Italy – OK, I used imported linguine, too…).
For the easy recipe…
This sauce is lighter than the pure basil-pine-nuts-Reggiano-olive-oil-garlic pesto, with toasted almonds in place of the pignoli as well as the addition of cherry tomatoes. In my variation, the canned tomatoes worked very well and make the dish possible even when good fresh cherry tomatoes are not readily available. However, it is richer and has more depth than many marinara sauces. The next day, I used it for a pizza – with my own dough, fresh boconcini, and the remaining fresh basil – and it made a great base for pizza.
As always, ATK does not disappoint, even with the substitution of tinned tomatoes, and its reddish-brown luxury will remind one of the terracotta buildings of Sicily.
Trapanese Pesto Sauce (makes more than enough to serve four, generously)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
- 1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted (can be done easily in frying pan until golden, about five minutes on medium heat, watching to ensure they do not burn)
- 2 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, fresh or 1 can (28 oz.), liquid drained, but reserved
- 1/2 c. whole basil
- 2 clove garlic
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pepperoncino, minced
- 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, with extra 1/4 c. for serving
- one pound pasta of your choice (linguine, fettucine, or even bucatini would work well)
Add above ingredients to food processor, while pasta is cooking. Add reserved tomato liquid, if necessary to create a smooth, thick sauce, if using tinned tomatoes.
Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c pasta water. Return pasta to cooking pot.
Add pesto. Stir well. Add reserved water. Add 1/2 grated Parmigiano Reggiano and toss thoroughly.
Serve with additional cheese.