Trapanese Pesto is a truly delightful pasta sauce. Bright, tangy and savory—this Sicilian sauce is one of the best ways to enjoy the bounty of summer tomatoes. Pair this sauce with al dente rigatoni or spread it onto our Italian Steak Sandwich—however you serve it, it’s sure to be a hit.
What Is Trapanese Pesto
Trapanese Pesto is a Sicilian sauce originating from the town of Trapani, Italy. It’s made by blending tomatoes, toasted almonds, garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese, resulting in a vibrant and slightly chunky pesto that has a whisper of fresh herb. This sauce balances tangy, sweet tomatoes with toasty almonds for a truly one-of-a-kind sauce.
Ingredients in Trapanese Pesto
Trapanese Pesto is a simple sauce made with just a handful of fresh garden ingredients and Italian mainstays. Here’s what you’ll need:
Almonds: toasted almonds are a key ingredient of trapanese pesto. And while many recipes will call for toasted slivered almonds, I tend to opt of whole almonds. For one, they’re cheaper, and two the skins add nuance and flavor. For a cleaner flavor—and color—opt of toasted slivered almonds instead.
Tomatoes: cherry tomatoes are what you need for this recipe. Don’t be tempted to use big slicers from the garden. Small tomatoes offer a high skin-to-flesh ratio which achieves the ideal texture.
Basil: load this pesto up with fresh basil! You’ll need 1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves. Sometimes I throw in a bit of fresh oregano, but that’s not necessary.
Garlic: a few fresh cloves of garlic add a punchy heat. Use cloves that are on the larger side if you love garlic.
Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano work here. Use whatever you like and have on hand. Keep in mind, pecorino is a bit saltier and will make for a saltier sauce.
Pantry Ingredients: kosher salt, red pepper flakes and extra-virgin olive oil round out the pesto ingredients.
How to Make Trapanese Pesto
The most traditional version of this recipe would call for making this in a mortar and pestle (that’s also true for Genovese-style pesto recipes). But for easier prep, I opt for a food processor (I recommend this over a blender which will over-process the ingredients).
When using a food processor, the key is to pulse the ingredients instead of process them. Pulsing makes for a chunkier texture—which is what you want here!
- Pulse the Almonds and Garlic
- Add the Tomatoes, Basil, Salt and Pepper Flakes
- Blend In the Oil
- Pulse In the Cheese
Add toasted unsalted almonds and whole garlic cloves to a food processor. Pulse them together until finely chopped. Do NOT let it become a paste. You want the almonds to retain some texture!
Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and crushed red pepper flakes and pulse the mixture until it’s finely minced. Don’t hold down the button and process it smooth—pulse it to retain chunks.
With the processor running, stream in the oil. This should only take a few minutes. The goal is to emulsify the oil, not make the sauce super smooth.
Add the Parmesan and pulse it in to combine. Give the sauce a taste and adjust with additional salt, red pepper, Parmesan and oil as needed.
Can I Use Other Varieties of Tomatoes?
We like grape tomatoes the best—they have a slightly sweet taste and make for a wonderfully balanced sauce. That being sauce, cherry tomatoes and even roma tomatoes will also work.
Trapanese pesto is fresh and vibrant and should be served tossed with hot pasta in a bowl. Avoid cooking the pesto in a pan or skillet—this will muddy the fresh flavors of the tomatoes and basil.
You can also use this pesto as a dressing for cold pasta salad, as a dip for fresh vegetables, or a spread on bread and sandwiches.
Store trapanese pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Pesto can be frozen for up to 2 months. We recommend storing it in small portions so you can thaw just what you need.
Try These Other Pesto Recipes
Radish Green Pesto — a great way to use up a vegetable green you might not otherwise know how to use.
Carrot Top Pesto — another sauce that uses up veggie grees!
Triple Herb Pesto — this is our go-to Genovese-style pesto.
Cilantro Pesto — this pesto crosses cuisines and uses fresh cilantro and pepitas.
Arugula & Pistachio Basil Pesto — a fresh and slightly spicy green pesto!
Miso Pesto Ramen — a dollop of miso adds tons of depth to a green pesto.
Trapanese Pesto Recipe
- ½ cup raw almonds, toasted or roasted unsalted almonds
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1 pound grape tomatoes
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil + more for serving
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano + more for serving
- 1 pound dry rigatoni pasta
- Pulse almonds and garlic in bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped, about 12 pulses.
- Add tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper flakes; pulse until coarsely chopped, about 15 pulses.
- With processor running, stream in oil until combined; pulse in cheese. Transfer pesto to a large bowl.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water then drain pasta and transfer to bowl with pesto.
- Toss pasta with pesto, adding drizzles of olive oil and pasta water as needed until pasta is saucy and coated with pesto. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve pasta with torn fresh basil and additional grated Parmesan.