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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

Pesto alla Trapanese Recipe | How to Make Sicilian Pesto Sauce

Everyone knows the famous basil-based “Pesto alla Genovese,” but few outsiders know that there are many different kinds of regional pesto sauces in Italy. Pesto alla Trapanese is a classic Sicilian pesto variant, made with tomatoes, almonds and pecorino cheese.

Pesto alla Trapanese Recipe | How to Make Sicilian Pesto Sauce

How to Make Pasta with Pesto alla Trapanese

This pesto makes an excellent pasta sauce, particularly when paired with a Sicilian pasta such as busiate. Like all pesto, it should be kept raw from start to finish. To serve with pasta, place about 1/4 cup per serving into a large mixing bowl and thin the sauce with some pasta water. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it into the bowl and mix thoroughly before serving.

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make Pesto alla Trapanese here:


Makes: About 1/2 cup

Cook Time: 45 minutes

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup (30g) almonds

  • 5.5 oz. (155g) cherry or grape tomatoes

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • Coarse salt to taste

  • A small handful of fresh basil

  • 1 oz. (30g) grated pecorino romano cheese

  • 1 tbsp. (15g) extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

  • Small baking tray or dish

  • Small saucepan or pot

  • Paring knife

  • A smooth stone mortar and pestle, preferably the largest size you can find

  • Knife

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). While the oven comes up to temp, put a small pot of water on to boil.

Place the almonds in a small baking tray and roast them in the oven for 10 minutes. While the almonds cook, use a paring knife to cut a small incision across one end of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute, then drain them. You should be able to easily peel the tomato skins off with a paring knife from the incision you made before.

After peeling the tomatoes, cut them in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds and set the tomatoes aside for later. After the almonds have roasted, chop them as finely as you can.

Place the chopped garlic and a generous pinch of salt into the bowl of your mortar. Using a circular grinding motion, mash the garlic into a paste. Add the basil and mash this as well. Grind in the tomatoes next.

When a “salsa”-looking sauce has formed, add the chopped nuts and pecorino cheese. Grind these into a thick paste. If there is a lot of liquid in the pesto from the tomatoes, you can skim some of the excess out with a spoon and discard it.

Finally, mix in the olive oil. Taste the pesto and add more salt, cheese or olive oil as desired.

Pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. To prevent the pesto from spoiling or discoloring, cover the surface of the sauce with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil before storing it in the fridge.

Buon appetito!

Want to try another pesto variation? Check out our complete guide to making perfect Pesto alla Genovese! Interested in more Sicilian recipes? It’s hard to beat this incredible cauliflower pasta!

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