Classic pesto sauce –
that combination of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil – is well-known and available ready-made.
That version is also called pesto Genovese, and it’s one of my favorite ways to sauce pasta on a busy work night.
That was before I discovered pesto Trapanese at an Italian restaurant in Atlanta.
Instead of pine nuts, this pesto calls for toasted almonds, which are a good bit less expensive.
The almonds are pulsed in a food processor or blender along with grape tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, garlic, salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
Then, drizzle in olive oil until everything is blended.
You could use as little as one cup of almonds in the sauce, but because the packages at the supermarket are generally 11/3 cups, I tailored the recipe so you can use the whole package.
When you cook your pasta, be sure to save a little of the water before draining the pasta.
You might need it to get the sauce to your preferred consistency when you toss it with the pasta.
Along with the sauce, the pasta is tossed with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
All you need to complete your menu is a big green salad.
1 pound spaghetti or other pasta
11/3 cups slivered almonds, toasted in a skillet and set aside to cool
1 container (standard, not the double size) grape tomatoes, rinsed and drained on paper towels or a kitchen towel
Leaves from 1 package of fresh basil (or ¾ to 1 cup of packed basil leaves, if you grow your own)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to your preference.
While you boil the water and cook the pasta, combine the almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until fairly smooth.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, return top and remove the center piece so that you can drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil.
When the pasta is done, remove 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the pesto and Parmesan and stir.
If you’d like it more saucy, add some of the cooking water (start with about ½ cup and see if that is the consistency you’re looking for). Season with pepper and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table, if desired.
Makes about six servings.