Sicily is the land of almonds and pistachios. You’ll find them in orchards dotting the countryside, and in everything from gelato to granitas to pasta, and more. Pesto alla Trapanese is a traditional almond-based Sicilian pesto pasta recipe that we learned from Sicilians in Carruba. It’s perfect for an easy, fresh dinner.
While in Sicily (see more from our visit here), we were excited to learn how to make traditional Sicilian dishes. The team at Don Venerando made us a traditional Sicilian meal for our last night on the island. One of our favorite dishes was the Pesto alla Trapanese, a pesto pasta recipe made with almonds. Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts (or “pignoli”), but it can be made with other nuts like walnuts, and you can use arugula instead of basil.
The almonds were toasted and roughly chopped. They add texture, flavor, and dimension to the pasta. We were also surprised to hear that there are tomatoes in the sauce, since most pesto recipes don’t include tomatoes.
This pesto is one version that we hadn’t tried before, but we’ve been making it all summer long. We hope you enjoy this pasta recipe that we brought back from Sicily as much as we have! Be sure to get our free Italian recipe book here.
Pesto alla Trapanese: Sicilian Pesto Pasta
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 4 small tomatoes, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup Basil
- olive oil
- 1 lb penne pasta
- Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a sheet pan into a single layer and bake. Shake the pan and check every few minutes until the almonds are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t burn.
- Fit a food processor with a blade. Add a ½ cup of the almonds, all of the basil, a generous handful of grated Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and enough olive oil to mix. Pulse until roughly chopped and combined but not smooth. Add more olive oil as needed and salt to taste.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the penne until al dente. Reserve a ½ cup of starchy pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a saute pan and add the sauce and toss until coated. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and cook over medium heat until warmed through. Season with salt if needed.
- To serve, top with the remaining toasted almond slices and Parmesan cheese.
If you want even more Sicilian recipes, here a a few Sicilian cookbooks we recommend: Sicily: Recipes from an Italian Island, Sicily: The Cookbook, Sicilia in Cucina, Sicilia: Sicilian Traditions, Food and Wine