So far, when talking about pesto, I’ve shared mostly variants of pesto alla genovese made with other herbs than basil, or without pine nuts. Today, we’re moving south to see how to make a red tomato pesto.
This recipe is called Trapanese pesto. As the name suggests, it is a traditional dressing from the city of Trapani in Sicily.
It is made with oil, tomatoes, almonds, basil, pecorino cheese, and especially Nubia red garlic, a local variety famous for its red cloves.
It has a simple, flavorful taste, and as you can see from the list of ingredients, it is also very healthy.
It is mainly used to season pasta, but can also be used for other dishes.
Trapanese pesto has been used for centuries by the common people of Sicily, and now it is a popular artisanal product that some companies market under the name “Sicilian Pesto“.
Let’s see how to make one at home.
What you need
Fresh peeled tomatoes: get some plum or oblong tomatoes at your local grocery store. You will need to boil them in boiling water, peel them, and then combine them with the other ingredients. Alternatively, you can use canned peeled tomatoes, but be sure to get good ones.
Fresh basil leaves: as usual, don’t take the dried ones sold in jars. Get the real deal.
Garlic: as I mentioned earlier, this recipe is traditionally made with Nubia red garlic, and if you can find some you really should try it. Otherwise, a regular clove of garlic will do.
Pecorino: Sicily is a big producer of pecorino cheeses. If you can find one with the PDO label, you won’t regret it.
Shelled almonds: like many types of pesto, this recipe contains nuts. If you are allergic or have guests who cannot eat them, you can simply skip this ingredient and make a pesto without nuts. Purists will turn up their noses, but better safe than sorry, am I right?
Extra virgin olive oil and salt: not much to say about these two. Obviously, the better the oil, the better your pesto will be.
How to make tomato pesto at home
Step 1: Wash the tomatoes and blanch them for about 3 minutes in boiling water. Meanwhile, wash the basil leaves and let them dry on a paper towel.
Step 2: Drain the tomatoes, let them cool and remove their skins.
Step 3: Put the peeled tomatoes on the bottom of a blender, then add the basil leaves. Next add the red garlic clove, grated pecorino cheese, and finally the almonds.
Step 4: Close the blender and blend intermittently for one minute. You should get a slightly grainy sauce. Add the oil and salt, and your Trapanese pesto is ready.
What to do with your tomato pesto
Trapanese pesto is mostly used to season pasta. Traditionally, it is paired with busiate, a type of pasta similar to twisted macaroni.
In Sicily, it is also very common to use Trapanese pesto for gnoccoli, an ancient type of long-shaped pasta. This dish is often paired with fried eggplant, potatoes, or fish.
These types of pasta are not so easy to find outside Italy. If you want something simpler, you can use your tomato pesto on bucatini or linguine.
Wine: choose a fragrant and aromatic white wine. A Bianco di Nero D’Avola should do the trick.