Pesto alla Trapanese, with Almonds and Fresh Tomatoes

pesto alla trapanese

I’m from northern Italy – only been to Sicily once – and I only had heard about this dish before moving to Canada. Thanks to my friends food-bloggers, however, this dish tickled my attention, I starting making it, and I think it has already become part of my repertoire! What I love about Pesto alla Trapanese is how fresh it tastes, and that it can be prepared quickly (as the pasta cooks) and pretty much all year-round (unlike Pesto alla Genovese which requires large amounts of fresh basil, which is best in the summer).

Since I’m far from an authority on this dish, I’m presenting a variation over Frank Fariello‘s rendition. Similarly, it makes use of uncooked cherry tomatoes that are mixed in with other ingredients in a blender – a method quite common these days, as opposed to using mortar and pestle (which is traditional and at the origins of the name “pesto”). Aside from the blending technique, I substituted Pecorino for the milder (though geographically incorrect!) Parmigiano, and increased the amount of almonds for a grittier and drier sauce.


Pesto alla Trapanese, with almonds and fresh tomatoes

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 15 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Pesto alla Trapanese, with almonds and fresh tomatoes


  • 6-8 (140 g, 5 oz in weight) cherry or strawberry tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 40 g (1 ½ oz) almonds, blanched (chopped or whole)
  • 40 g (1 ½ oz) Parmigiano, coarsely grated
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 140 g (5 oz) spaghetti, linguine, or even short pasta like farfalle or fusilli
  • coarse salt (1/2 Tbsp per liter, 2 Tbsp per gallon of boiling water)


  1. Bring a big pot of water to a boil.coring and scoring a tomato
  2. Toast the almonds in a pan at high heat for a couple of minutes until they get some color, but before they turn dark.
  3. Core the tomatoes and score their skin (see illustration on the side).
  4. Boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds, then dip them in cold water to stop the cooking. Keep the water boiling, you’re going to use it to cook the pasta.
  5. Salt the water and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.pesto alla trapanese, blender
  6. As the pasta cooks, peel the tomatoes and squeeze them to remove seeds and excessive liquid.
  7. In a blender, mix all ingredients so that they turn creamy, but still a bit coarse. I used an immersion blender and it worked very well.
  8. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and put it back in the pot along with the pesto. Mix gently and serve immediately.


pesto alla trapanese


Paolo Rigiroli

Author: Paolo Rigiroli

Now based in the UK, Paolo is an Italian who lived in Canada for nearly 18 years and blogs about Italian food and its many aberrations.

15 thoughts on “Pesto alla Trapanese, with Almonds and Fresh Tomatoes”

  1. Paolo – I am so glad you posted this. Ever since you mentioned it in a comment, I have been wanting to find a recipe. This looks quite simple I really like how you use the pasta water to blanch the tomatoes. Always better to use fewer pots! A presto, dsa

    1. Thanks David, your pasta did make me think of this one. It is in fact a very simple recipe, and a very successful one. As I mention in the post, I owe it to Frank Fariello.

  2. This recipe has all the qualities I crave in a personal favorite (read: it’s simple).

    One question though: The tomatoes seem to be a key ingredient here, but there is so much variation in the tomatoes I see at the grocery. What qualities should I be looking for when I buy my tomatoes for this recipe? Do I want one with maximal flavor? What’s the distinction of cherry or strawberry tomatoes over other kinds of tomatoes? Strangely, canned imported tomatoes often have more flavor than the fresh ones–what happens if I use canned tomatoes here?

    1. Hi Jason, this recipe calls for flavorful, fully ripe tomatoes that are not too juicy. I used cherry/strawberry tomatoes because they tend to have these characteristics all year round. I think canned tomatoes would work too, but I would choose whole peeled tomatoes, and fully drain them: save the juice for your Bloody Mary 🙂 Let me know how you will like it, it was an instant favorite for us.

      1. Wow. “Instant favorite” is an understatement. This dish will make an appearance at my next dinner party for sure. What a surprise!

        That’s super interesting about the year-round consistency of cherry tomatoes. I’ll remember that.

        I think I was wrong about the tomatoes being a key ingredient. I think the almonds, basil, and even the garlic were much stronger flavors. I might try with canned peeled tomatoes next time, like you said, and see how they change the flavor.

        That trick you have with the scores at the bottom of the tomato certainly makes quick work of peeling though.

        Thanks for this new favorite!

        1. Fantastic! Thanks for the detailed feedback, that’s a blogger’s dream 🙂

          You are right that the tomatoes are not the star here, in fact this dish is known for being an almond pesto. However, tomatoes add a very distinct “fresh” note which brings the whole dish together.

          Thanks for sharing the picture as well, your dish looks perfect and I really like the overall picture as well.

  3. Hi I live in Nice just 30kms or so from the Italian border. I’m always searching for simple Italian recipes. I found this to be delicious. My husband is a fan of walnut sauce but I always find it too heavy the tomatoes here make it light. Thank you so much. I would love to have any artichoke recipes as I am a big fan but don’t find a lot of simple recipes for them usually I just roast or grill for the apero. I must admit after we ate pasta alla Trapanese we skipped on a second course or dessert but opened a bottle of prosecco and sat on the balcony to savour our dinner.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Flora, I’m glad you liked it. You’re right, it’s quite of a dish for the summer – and the pairing with prosecco sounds wonderful. I’m not an artichoke expert myself, unfortunately, and I can’t seem to find good ones here where I live. But I will keep looking, I do love their flavor and plan on learning some recipes 🙂

  4. Thanks, Paolo, it looks just like what Alex Polizzi eats when visiting Filicudi in “Secret Italy: the islands” and made me so hungry I wanted to cook it!

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