We find simple pleasure in upsetting the natural order of things. The unanticipated, that which catches us slightly off guard, is good for the mind and for the soul. We’re talking about nothing overt or drastic – just small things, minor interruptions in the routine of our days. It keeps us slightly off-balance, forces the senses and the mind to engage, wards against getting stuck in a rut.
Pesto alla siciliana is just that – a simple and unexpected deviation from the dark green basil-pine nut-garlic-parmesean sauce that we’ve come to know as pesto. The word pesto comes from pestello, or pestle in English, and refers to any combination of ingredients ground together by mortar and pestle.
We’ve mentioned before that Italian cuisine is regionally-specific. In the rest of the world, we think of Italian food. In Italy, food varies by region, influenced heavily by the climate, the land, and the plants and animals that inhabit it. The basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesean sauce which we call pesto is actually pesto alla genovese, originating in Liguria, where the city of Genova is found.
The south of Italy has provided a few different variations of pesto, making good use of the foods that grow in that sun-drenched part of the country. From Calabria we have pesto alla calabrese, with roasted red peppers, eggplant, ricotta and just a bit of tomato. Pesto alla siciliana leaves out the red peppers and the eggplant, giving greater emphasis to the tomato and ricotta while keeping the pine nuts common to the genovese version. The Sicilian city of Trapani yeilds yet another version, pesto alla trapanese, with tomatoes, almonds, and pecorino cheese.
We based our version on the classic pesto alla siciliana recipe, but borrowed the almonds from the trapanese version and used ricotta salata along with fresh ricotta and parmesean for a more complex cheese flavor. —DueSpaghetti