Pasta and pesto with almonds, tomato pulp, and basil: how pesto is made in Trapani


Pesto from Trapani is a delicious cream made of almonds, tomato pulp, and plenty of basil…an embracing sauce which evenly and heavenly coats pasta. Easy and tempting, it makes a very succulent pasta dish. A few ingredients which taste Sicily! Do you feel like try it? It is super easy!

pesto alla trapanese

I feel responsible because traditional recipes are always highly debated issues here in Italy. Personal opinions differ greatly: “I make like that!”, “Mine is the most genuine recipe!”, “Noooo, you can’t do that way, listen to me, this is my granny’s recipe!”. I could go on hours and hours to tell you a thousand methods to prepare the same recipe. They argue about the ingredients, the method, the kitchen tools-blender or mortar, for instance? Mortar? Which mortar, wooden or marble one? And so on. 

Of course, in Italy, food is a matter of importance, no slip-ups are allowed…the truth is that the recipes are recorded, but the result may vary according to the cook and the place. Tasty? Yes, definitely; but the technique can make the difference and a few slight corrections of the genuine recipe may result in a completely different and personal dish. But then, who cares? We have to satisfy our papillae, everything else becomes less important.

Let’s omit local rivalry, here! Let’s talk about almonds, delicious tomato pulp and fresh basil. Can just three simple ingredients make a truly amazing delicacy? Yes, they can! 


How should pesto alla trapanese be?

First of all, it must taste garlic. It must be red, so add tomatoes at the end of the preparation and basil must impart freshness, and Mediterranean scent. Almonds make the texture compact and creamy because it must not be as liquid as an ordinary tomato sauce.

What you need to make a delicious pesto alla trapanese

  • A mortar or a food processor: every respectable pesto sauce must be prepared in a mortar, preferably a wooden one (according to the people from Trapani), but if you are really short on time, you may use a food processor. In this case, pulse at low speed not to oxidize the ingredients.
  • Garlic: yes, it makes the pesto unique with its very, veeeeery strong taste (it is the same as the Genoese one): you should count from half to 1 clove per serving …if you do hate garlic, you may skip it (of course, people from Trapani won’t agree). Three must be a reason why this recipe is called “garlic sauce” in Sicilian dialect…!
  • Tomato pulp: I use peeled plum tomatoes, they are handier. You may use compact tomatoes such as perino ones. Bring a pot full of water to a simmer; in the meanwhile, wash the tomatoes in cold running water and then lightly cook them in the simmering water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and let the tomatoes cool down completely before peeling and discarding the seeds;
  • Basil: use very fresh basil, otherwise it will impart a strong sour taste.  If you can, pick it up yourself: why don’t you keep a vase of basil on the windowsill in your kitchen?
  • Almonds: you should prefer unpeeled almonds to peeled ones, but it takes longer time. Lightly cook unpeeled almonds in boiling water for a few minutes; drain and let them dry on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Once dried, gently press them with your fingers to peel off the skin. Well, a child’s play.
  • Coarse salt is put at the bottom of the mortar to prevent the garlic, the almond and the basil from spurting out the container;
  • Freshly grated pecorino cheese: the finishing touch which imparts sapidity and makes the dish a true pleasure!
Pasta and pesto with almonds, tomato pulp, and basil: how pesto is made in Trapani

Pasta and pesto with almonds, tomato pulp, and basil: how pesto is made in Trapani

A tricolored sauce, pesto alla trapanese is an antique genuine recipe from West Sicily, Trapani where Genoese sailors coming from the East, introduced pesto.  
People in Trapani replaced the typical ingredients of the Genoese recipe with their local products: so, almonds instead of pine-nuts, and fresh tomatoes. Delicate and flavorful, pesto alla trapanese is well paired with every kind of pasta either hot or cold. Exquisite, indeed! 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword homemade pesto, italian pesto, perfect pesto, pesto alla trapanese, trapani
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 360 gr pasta to your taste, either short or long
  • 200 gr extra fresh basil 
  • 2-4 cloves garlic (it can be an extra ingredient to your taste)
  • 120 gr peeled almonds 
  • 100 gr tomato pulp (the less sour, the better)
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste 
  • coarse salt 
  • grated pecorino Romano cheese (to taste)


  • In a food processor or in the mortar, blend or smash garlic, almonds with 3 tbsp of oil and a pinch of coarse salt until a smooth paste; 
  • Rinse and pat dry the basil; add it to the almond paste; 
  • Add the tomatoes and three more tbsp of oil; 
  • Pulse at low speed intermittently until an even sauce. Pour abundant extra virgin olive oil and let sit; 
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente in plenty of salty water;
  • When done, pour pasta into a serving bowl; add pesto, toss well until pesto has evenly coated pasta; 
  • Generously sprinkle with ripe grated pecorino; 
  • Serve hot or cold to your taste. 

A few variations

Apart from the use of garlic (skipping it is against the law for genuine Sicilian people), some recipes want pine-nuts, raisins and coarse pieces of tuna.

Very tempting, isn’t’ it?

paccheri alla trapanese


How pesto alla trapanese can be kept?

You can freeze pesto alla trapanese into single serving containers; defrost the at room temperature before using it. Pesto keeps fresh up to 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge covered with a layer of oil.

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