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Italian pesto alla trapanese

Published on 30 min main, ahead, summer

I discovered this pasta sauce recipe, as I was traveling with friends through Sicily in 2023. It is fresh, tomato-ey, and just perfect for summer.


  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • A big handful of almonds, blanched and peeled
  • A bouquet of basil, leaves only
  • 100 g Pecorino cheese (plus more for serving)
  • 500 g plum tomatoes (meaty ones), seeded
  • Olive oil
  • Busiate pasta (for the traditional Trapanese recipe, but any pasta will do)
  • Salt
  • 2-4 mint leavesoptional


  1. Crush the garlic in the mortar with a pinch of salt to form a paste. Add almonds and beat and crush into a rough paste. Work in basil leaves and mint (if using), pounding and crushing into tiny bits. Smash in cheese, followed by tomatoes and olive oil. The final sauce should be a rough paste. Season with salt.
  2. Transfer 2/3 of the sauce to a large heatproof serving bowl.
  3. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Transfer pasta to serving bowl, reserving some of the pasta-cooking water. Toss well, adding more olive oil and pasta-cooking water, one tablespoon at a time each, until a creamy sauce forms that's not dry but also not soupy. Season with salt, if needed. If the sauce gets too dry at any point, simply add more pasta-cooking water to loosen it.
  4. Serve, spooning remaining sauce on top of each portion and adding more cheese as desired.

Tip: Keep the sauce in the fridge and top the pasta with it before serving for the optimal hot and cold contrast.

Adapted from this original recipe