The Perfect Pair | Part 1

June 03, 2019
The Perfect Pair |  Part 1

Sicilian style tomato and almond pesto pasta

By Danette St. Onge

Total time: 20 minutes

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

makes: 4 servings



  • 250g Penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds, blanched or skin-on
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • About 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese
  • 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Optional garnishes: fried mozzarella cubes, minced fresh mint leaves, toasted chopped almonds, a few cherry tomatoes, halved, a few small springs of fresh basil leaves.


1: set a large, covered pot of water to boil over high heat for the pasta. (when water reaches a rolling boil, add some coarse sea salt - about 1 Tbsp per quarter of water - and the pasta and cook to al dente consistency.)

2: If blanching the almonds and peeling the tomatoes: then also set a medium pot of water to boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, cut and “X” shape into the bottom of each tomato, place the tomatoes and almonds together in a fine-mesh metal sieve and lower the sieve into the water for 1 minute.

3: after 1 minute, remove the sieve, and drain the almonds and tomatoes thoroughly. When cool enough to handle, pop the peels off of the tomatoes by gently squeezing them. Place the blanched almonds on a few layers of paper towel to drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze them to pop off the skins.

4: pat the peeled almonds dry thoroughly with another paper towel. If you are going to toss the almonds, do that at this point, by shaking them over a low heat in a skillet for a few minutes, just until lightly and evenly toasted.

5: in a blender or food processor or with a mortar and pestle, crush the almonds together with the garlic and salt to a coarse meal. Add the basil leaves and puree or crush together. Add the tomatoes and puree/crush again. Nest, add the cheese. Finally, blend or whisk in the olive oil to create a creamy emulsion.

6: when pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about 1/3 cup of the cooking water, and return it to the empty pot. (this recipe makes enough pesto to sauce about 1 point of pasta or 4-6 servings, but you can always make the whole recipe of pesto for less pasta and store any leftover pesto in the fridge or freezer).

7: add the pesto and a little bit of the pasta cooking water (add about 1 tbsp at a time, rather then all at once) as needed, to thin the sauce, help the cheese melt, and help the pesto adhere evenly to the pasta. Toss to coat evenly and serve hot or at room temperature, with any of the optional garnishes suggested above or by itself, with an additional sprinkling of grated cheese. 

Wines to match:

CellarSpace recommends a Chardonnay with this dish as the wine complements the fresh herbs in the sauce resulting in an earthy flavour.


Additional information:

The traditional way to make it (as with Genovese basil pesto) is by hand, in an sorter and pestle, but you can also use a blender or food processor; it will give a much smoother and less chunky texture.

It can be used on any pasta but works particularly well on long, thin strands such as spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or on short twisted shapes such as busiate or gnocchi.

Pasta tossed in this sauce can be served hot or cold, so this makes a good pasta salad sauce as well, for picnics.

In Trapani it is often served with fried eggplant or zucchini; that’s an optional addition that makes this light and delicate dish a bit heartier.

There are many different ways to make this dish; some blanch and peel the almonds and tomatoes, others use them as-is, with the skins on. Some tops the almonds lightly before crushing them. It’s up to you, though the quickest was it of course to just blend everything together as-is, without any blanching or toasting. Or you can buy blanched, skinless raw almonds and use those, however note that almonds tent to lose their flavour quickly after the skins are removed, so it is better to buy skin-on almonds and blanch them yourself, which you can do at the same time as the tomatoes, as described in the recipe.

Article taken from The Spruce Eates

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