Pestos of the Mediterranean …continuing
Pesto alla Siciliana or is it Pesto Trapanese? There seems to be some confusion about these two Sicilian pestos with both names used interchangeably.
So… to clarify, Pesto alla Siciliana is made all over the island of Sicily and has all the bright flavors you would expect from the southern Mediterranean including some flavor influences from coastal North Africa. Tomatoes, garlic, sweet almonds, golden raisins, capers, anchovies, Italian basil, and chilies are all ground into a beautifully silky pesto that blooms when tossed with pasta along with a light dusting of Italian Pecorino Romano. I prefer using roasted tomatoes and garlic for this recipe which rounds out the flavor nicely when paired with the toasted almonds.
Pesto Trapanese originates from the Sicilian western coastal province of Trapani. Pesto Trapanese is similar to pesto alla Siciliana, but the raisins, anchovies, and capers are omitted from the recipe, and the tomatoes and garlic are used fresh, giving the pesto a more assertive light tomato taste that adapts well to the addition of chicken or seafood tossed together with the pesto and pasta.
I urge you to try them both! Each decidedly different and both well worth adding to your repertoire of Mediterranean pestos that are as versatile as they are easy to prepare.
Follow subsequent posts for Sardinian Mint Pesto, Spanish Romesco, French Pistou, Greek Skordalia, and Taramasalata.
Pesto alla Siciliana with Fusilli lunghi Serves 6
- 8oz/225g vine ripe cherry tomatoes, roasted (see here)
- 6 cloves garlic, skin on, roasted, peeled, and chopped
- ½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins , soaked in boiled water
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 4 anchovy filets, chopped
- 1 small pepperoncini (see note), seeded and chopped(or substitute 1/2 pickled jalapeno)
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup packed basil leaves, chopped
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt + more to taste and for salting pasta water
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼-½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
- 24oz/ 700g Fusilli Lunghi
- water for boiling pasta
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Note: pepperoncini are mild pickled green Italian chili peppers that can be found at Italian markets and specialty food shops.
Preheat oven to 300F/150c and roast the cherry tomatoes as directed for about 1 ½ hours. Set aside to cool.
Place the garlic cloves in the oven with the tomatoes and roast about 25 minutes, or until soft. Set aside to cool.
Likewise, place the almonds in the oven and toast for about 15-20 minutes, until just beginning to color without browning. Set aside to cool.
Making the pesto:
Place the roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic, toasted almonds, golden raisins, capers, anchovies, pepperoncini, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are broken down, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.
Add the basil and pulse until incorporated. Begin adding the olive oil in a slow steady stream while pulsing intermittently. Add the salt, pepper, and chili flakes (if using) and pulse until the pesto is nearly smooth. A little texture to the pesto is fine.
Transfer the pesto to a bowl and refrigerate if not using immediately.
Cook the Fusilli in well salted boiling water for about 11-12 minutes or until al dente. Scoop out a cup of the pasta water and set aside to use for thinning the pesto if needed. Drain and return the fusilli to the pot. Thin the pesto with a little pasta water if needed. Spoon the pesto over the pasta and toss until well coated, reserving some pesto to serve at the table.
Transfer the sauced pasta to individual pasta bowls and serve with additional pesto and Pecorino Romano at the table.