Pesto Alla Trapanese: Fresh Tomato, Roasted Almond, and Basil Pesto
Pesto alla Trapanese was developed in Trapani, a city on Sicily’s west coast. Most pesto contains cheese, but, with this version, the roasted almonds’ richness supplants the cheese’s fatty mouth-feel. By peeling and roughly chopping the tomatoes, their distinct tang and texture matches rather than absorbs the roasted almonds’ flavor. A touch of lemon zest brightens and adds extra cancer-fighting flavonoids to the pesto. Versatile in its application, this pesto can act as a pasta sauce, dip for crostini, or topping for roasted chicken, fish, lamb, or beef.
1 cup almonds, roasted and chopped finely 3 medium, fresh tomatoes 3 cloves of garlic, crushed ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped Salt, to taste (this pesto requires a generous
amount of salt) 2 anchovy filets, mortared into a paste, optional
Prepare the tomatoes. To skin the tomatoes, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cut an X on the bottom of the tomatoes with your knife (just enough to pierce the skin) and cut the core out. Submerge the tomatoes in the hot water for just under a minute, and then pull them out of the hot water to shock them in salted ice-cold water. In one to two minutes, the tomatoes should be cool enough to handle. Pull the skin off, and place the tomatoes on a cutting board. Cut each tomato in half, and gently squeeze each half over the sink to release the seeds. There will be a few seeds still clinging to the flesh, but most will be removed. After the seeds and skins are removed, roughly chop until you have 11/ 2 cups of tomato. Place the crushed garlic, lemon zest, and salt into the chopped tomatoes. If you like anchovies, stir the anchovy paste into the tomato mix. Allow this mixture to sit for 20 minutes as you prepare the almond base. Place the roasted almonds in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped so small bits of the nuts are still visible. Stir the olive oil and roasted almond base into the tomato, lemon zest, and garlic mixture. Finely slice the basil leaves and gently fold them into the pesto and serve. This pesto is best used within a few hours. I have refrigerated the pesto for up to two days and used it in various dishes, and it tasted fine, but the brightness and distinctness of each ingredient mellows as it sits in the refrigerator.