"Before returning to Marinella, he dropped in at the grocer’s where he sometimes got his provision. He bought green olives, passuluna black olives, caciocavallo cheese, fresh bread sprinkled with giuggiulena, and a jar of Trapanese pesto." (page 205)
The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri (An Inspector Montalbano mystery)
Oh, how I love Salvo Montalbano, one of my favorite book characters. Inspector Montalbano is good at his job of solving crimes that come his way in Sicily. In addition to the way he does his job, I like the way he enjoys his food. He doesn’t mind company when eating, however, he prefers silence during the meal, so that he can concentrate on it. I’d love to be his dining companion but I’m afraid, I wouldn’t be able to keep silent for more than a few seconds. I’d have a lot to talk about to him.
Inspector Montalbano is always eating something interesting, whether simple or fancy. The mention of Trapanese pesto peeked my interest, especially after reading a side note about it. This is the book’s notation on Trapanese pesto:
"Trapanese pesto: Pesto alla trapanese, like its cousin, pesto alla genovese, is a sauce for pasta with ground or finely chopped basil as its foundation. The Trapanese version )from the Sicilian city of Trapani), however, uses finely chopped and toasted blanched almonds instead of pine nuts, as well as several finely chopped, uncooked tomatoes, which are ground into the blend with garlic, olive oil, and black pepper. Finally, after it [is] served on the pasta one adds a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs in the place of cheese." — page 244.
I liked the idea of this untraditional pesto, because it included tomatoes and almonds. While I could have easily made my Trapanese pesto based on the above description alone, I decided to look for a recipe that gave specific amounts and settled on a recipe from Lidia Bastianich. I like her added touch of a peperonchino to the mix, which lent an ever so slight touch of heat to the pesto. Lidia’s recipe calls for spaghetti, but I made linguine. I mixed my Trapanese pesto with the linguine and topped my pasta and pesto dish with Pecorino Romano cheese. Next time, I plan on trying the topping of toasted bread crumbs (mentioned above), in place of the cheese. Either way, my dish tasted oh so good — divine!
For once, I became like the Inspector. I ate in silence and truly focused and enjoyed the simple flavors of my meal — the basil, garlic, almonds, tomatoes, and touch of peperonchino. Perfect! I guess, there really are times when one needs to be quiet and enjoy one’s meal. This was clearly the moment, for me. I think I’ll be eating pasta this way for a long while.
This is my contribution to Novel Food, which Simona hosts over at Briciole. In a few days, you can see a list of others who have joined in on the Novel Food fun, with recipes inspired by books they’ve read. Check it out!
Linguine with Trapanese pesto
Spaghetti al Pesto Trapanese alla Anna
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 leaves fresh basil
? cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.
Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.
With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)
To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.
Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.