Basics and sides

Pesto alla Trapanese

The story of pesto alla Trapanese (also known as ‘pesto alla Siciliana,’ and known to Sicilians as ‘pasta cull’agghia‘) is deadly simple. Ancient Genoese traders from the Ligurian coast of northern Italy would trade with the people of Sicily after landing at the western Sicilian port of Trapani. They brought their own pesto with them, and the Sicilians copied it using ingredients local to them, which included tomatoes. They swapped out the pine nuts for local almonds. This scene played out literally thousands of years ago.

The recipe for pesto alla Trapanese given here uses dead reckoning by approximate volume. You just add all the ingredients in the same volume, double the volume in tomatoes, and then drizzle the oil into the running food processor unit the mixture comes together.

When Nigella Lawson made pesto alla Trapanese in her Italian themed show Nigelissima, she threw the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In went sultanas, anchovies and capers, all in the name of what she called a ‘baroque’ version of the basic original.

Pesto alla Trapanese

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Serves: Varies
Cooking Time: None


  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes (pomodoro piccolo)
  • Half a handful of blanched almonds, lightly toasted in a frying pan
  • Half a handful of basil leaves
  • Half a handful of pecorino, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



Combine the first 5 the ingredients in a food processor and drizzle in olive oil until the mixture binds together (about 2 tbsp). Season to taste.


To use the pesto, thoroughly mix 1–2 tbsp of it with cooked busiate or other long, spiral or crinkled pasta. Warm through and serve.

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