What Is Trapanese Pesto?

Sicilian tomatoes

Short answer
Arguably the world's second-most famous pesto, Pesto alla Trapanese, is a Sicilian creation that switches the traditional pine nuts for almonds and introduces their revered tomatoes.

Long answer
Legend has it that in ancient times, Ligurian sailors would dock in the Sicilian port of Trapani and share the secrets of their homeland's beloved sauce. Impressed by what they tasted, the Sicilians tweaked the original recipe to include their world-class tomatoes and almonds.

The Sicilian version of traditional basil pesto still contains plenty of olive oil, basil, nuts, garlic, and cheese, but the added tomatoes give the sauce a super fresh, summery vibe. The Sicilians swear by their beloved Pachino tomatoes that grow in the far south of the island. Resembling the cherry tomatoes you find in UK supermarkets, these small, bright red tomatoes are so exceptionally sweet and intensely fragrant that there really is no comparison.

The inclusion of fresh tomatoes means the sauce is altogether lighter than Genovese pesto, and at the same time, it's not quite as creamy due to the Sicilians' preference for almonds over pine nuts. If you really want to push the boat out, it's worth trying to track down the Sicilian Noto Romana almonds, which are intensely sweet and not as oily as other varieties. Just make sure they are blanched and peeled, as the skins can be quite bitter.

If you ever have a chance to get your hands on some aglio rosso di Nubia, the famed purple garlic, fill your boots. This variety is revered across the island for its incredible taste, aroma, and texture and often finds its way into the local pesto recipes.

While slightly controversial, some cooks throw in a few mint leaves when making Trapanese pesto. It's not to everyone's taste, but it adds an extra level of complexity that we rather like. For ultimate authenticity, serve with the finest busiate pasta you can afford.