Pesto Trapanese is a variation from the classic basil pesto that we all know and love, as it calls for almonds instead of pine nuts and utilizes fresh, raw tomatoes within the sauce. The almonds and the tomatoes truly change the character and texture of the dish altogether, and the level of creaminess achieved due to the almonds will make you swear this recipe was packed full of butter.
My version was vegan (for calorie saving purposes... I know, I know). Despite not adding cheese, the finished version was fantastic. I wouldn't change a thing. That said, feel free make up for the cheese I didn't eat and include it on top of your piping hot dish of this utterly fantastic pasta dish.
Pesto Trapenese served with Spinach Spaghetti
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted, raw almonds
2 big tomatoes, quartered
*1/4 cup pecorino, romano or parmesan cheese (The sauce tastes great without the cheese, I promise!)
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 bag spaghetti, linguine, or a package of Trader Joe's fabulous pre-made gnocchi. (Fresh pasta would inevitably taste 10x better, but we're not fooling anyone into thinking we eat fresh pasta regularly, are we?)
In a medium saucepan, boil the pasta water.
While the water is boiling, toss the almonds, garlic and olive oil into the food processor. Let it chop chop for a good minute until chunky and the solution begins to look creamy. Add the basil and tomatoes and process for another minute until smooth. Season with a healthy dose of salt and pepper.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, until al dente. This is very important- don't overcook your pasta in the water. Drain the pasta when it is still chewy on the inside, but reserve one cup of the pasta water.
Add a little pasta water back into the pan with the pasta and turn your stove on to medium heat. Add the pesto sauce 1/4 cup at a time, stirring with a spatula so the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce. Alternate by adding more water and sauce and stirring generously. The pasta will gently cook the sauce for a few minutes while it absorbs the starchy water that it was cooked in. The sauce recipe should leave you with a little extra left over.
Serve the pasta hot or cold with a little extra salt and if you so choose, a few shavings of a nice ripe, dry Italian cheese on top. Bon appetite!