Make Ahead

Pesto alla siciliana

July 27, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Makes enough to dress a 1lb. box of pasta
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 50 gr. fresh ricotta (1/8 C. + 1 Tbsp.)
  • 25 gr. ricotta salata (2 Tbsp.)
  • 25 gr. parmesean (2 Tbsp.)
  • 25 gr. pine nuts (2 Tsbp.)
  • 25 g. almonds (approx. 20)
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  1. Cut tomato into small pieces and place them into a food processor.
  2. Add the fresh ricotta.
  3. Cut the ricotta salata and parmesean into small pieces, and add the to the food processor.
  4. Add the pine nuts and almonds, and then the basil.
  5. Chop the garlic and add it as well, along with the salt, olive oil.
  6. Blend in the food processor until smooth.
  7. Toss with short pasta cooked to al dente, and serve with a dusting of fresh grated parmesean on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • DueSpaghetti
  • healthierkitchen
  • LloJo
  • babette66

5 Reviews

DueSpaghetti September 3, 2011
@EatDrinkLyon: It will only keep as long as the ricotta keeps, which will depend on whether you used fresh ricotta rather than the supermarket tubs, etc. Fresh ricotta doesn't have a very long lifespan. I would plan on making small batches and using it within 2-3 days at most.
LloJo September 3, 2011
How long will this keep in the fridge?
DueSpaghetti August 28, 2011
@babette: Yes, the almonds come from a version made in the Sicilian city of Trapani - pesto alla trapanese. All of these variations simply make it more fun to experiment!
babette66 August 28, 2011
I ate too pesto in Sicilia this summer : instead of almonds, they put pistachios, it was great with pasta and shrimps.
healthierkitchen July 27, 2011
sounds great, DueSpaghetti!