Friday, November 12, 2010
tomato basil pesto
As you may know, pesto is my favorite food. I could eat it all the time, I love it so much. When I see a bunch of basil, my brain is already transforming it into a beautiful batch of pesto sauce. Of course, when I say pesto, I'm talking about the sauce served over pasta. Nathan somehow finds this confusing, and always has to clarify:
"what did you have for dinner?"
"some pesto with salad and a pork chop."
"like, straight up pesto?"
"no! with spaghetti, duh."
Clearly, he is an idiot. In my (admittedly pesto-centric) world, the word pesto is used interchangeably as both the sauce and the pasta dish. Don't try and tell me otherwise. I am equally uninterested in deviating from my family's absolutely perfect pesto recipe. In general, I love trying new foods and different takes on old favorites, but pesto is one big exception to that. I love the creamy, smooth texture of my pesto. Nothing else measures up for me, to the point where I have absolutely no interest in ordering restaurant pesto. Make pesto like an Italian grandmother? No thanks, I'm pretty sure I already make the platonic ideal of pesto, and no amount of old world traditions or America's Test Kitchen tinkering can shake my faith in that belief.
However, my curiosity was piqued when I stumbled across this recipe for pesto trapanese. I hadn't heard of it, but after a little googling, I learned that the pesto that I know and love is not the only type of pesto that those culinary geniuses the Italians came up with. My pesto comes from Genoa, so it is more specifically pesto genovese. Down in Sicily, they make this pesto trapanese that swaps the pine nuts for almonds and adds fresh tomatoes. (There is also apparently a pesto pantesco, which adds capers, dried chili peppers and other herbs to the trapanese variety.)
Since this pesto trapanese is basically an entirely separate sauce, rather than a pale imitation of my favorite dish, I decided to make it. (It didn't hurt that soon after I learned of its existence, the smitten kitchen gave its stamp of approval.)
As with pesto, original flavor, this trapanese pesto is quite easy to make. Toast almonds, blend up almonds, and then add everything else and blend. Everything else being basil, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and grated cheese. Serve over pasta.
The verdict? Eh. Not nearly as good as the real deal. It was way too dry. Also, it was disconcertingly very similar to taste to romesco sauce, which makes sense considering both have large amounts of almonds and tomatoes. (Laura actually asked that was what was on the pasta. She didn't love it either.) I didn't mind it actually, left over and moistened up with a bit of half and half, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.
Ultimately, this was ok, but the Genovese definitely have the Trapanese beat when it comes to pesto. I am pleased to report that the all basil variety retains the crown, and the rights to be called pesto sans adjectives. As always, when I say pesto, I mean I am inhaling a delicious bowl of pasta with the world's best nutty, garlicy basil sauce.