So, I’ve never made homemade pesto before. Everything I’ve read about it is that it’s the bees knees and is 2000% better homemade. I’ve just never given it a go, despite the mortar & pestle I was gifted this past Christmas. WELL. I finally put that mortar & pestle to use and made some pesto. I was inspired by a Serious Eats recipe for pesto alla trapanese, which is a bit different than your regular pesto. Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, olive oil, garlic, & pine nuts. It’s fresh and lovely and delicious. Pesto alla trapanese is made with almonds instead of pine nuts, as well as an addition of fresh tomatoes. It creates a beautifully creamy sauce, pinky peach in color, absolutely fucking delicious.
I wanted a lil protein because I find that pasta is filling for approximately 7 minutes before you want more (👋🏼 carbs!). I just sauteed some shrimp with salt & pepper so as not to overpower the flavor of the pesto. Alternatively, you can throw in some grilled chicken or omit the meat entirely and eat and entire bowl of pasta. You do you.
I would like to add that grinding things in a mortar & pestle is WORK. I would also like to add that I cannot take credit for this work – my boyfriend volunteered for this task and probably regretted it after 10 minutes of smashing up almonds 😬 THX BABE.
This can be made in a food processor, but according to Serious Eats (who always has excellent scientific insight as to why food should be made certain ways), the flavors don’t come out as well when blended like that. So, it’s worth the bit of extra love to grind it yourself.
Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Daniel Gritzer at Serious Eats:
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- pinch of salt
- 2oz (1/2 cup) toasted blanched almonds
- 35 large basil leaves
- 2-4 mint leaves
- 3.5oz grated cheese (I used parmesan, but Daniel suggests pecorino, which I couldn’t find), plus extra for serving
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound linguine
- Crush the garlic in the mortar & pestle until it forms a paste.
- Add the almonds until a thick mixture is formed.
- Add the basil & mint until they are crushed into tiny pieces.
- Grind in cheese, tomatoes, & olive oil last until a rough mixture is formed. If you’re weird about texture you can grind it to the thickness of your preference. Add salt to taste!
- Transfer pesto to whatever large bowl you plan on serving the pasta.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions (I always do a few minutes past al dente because I’m not into hard pasta, but do what you wish). Save a lil bit of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the pesto bowl mixing the noodles and pesto together. If it feels a little dry, add some pasta water and olive oil until it’s a nice creamy texture – not too dry, not too wet.
- Serve with some extra cheese and basil & enjoy.
If you’re adding a protein – don’t do much. Chicken or shrimp seasoned with salt & pepper is a nice addition. I didn’t make any, but garlic bread would be A+ dipped all in that pesto. Refer to this post for my garlic bread recipe 🙂
Let me know if you make this! I loved it. Jon loved it. My roommate loved it. Pasta is kind of a treat meal for me – and pretty pesto alla trapanese makes it extra special.