Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds

I have come across more than one version of "pesto Trapanese," the Sicilian pasta sauce from Trapani that differs from the more popularly known Genoese variety in a number of ways. Chief of these is that almonds, not pine nuts, are ground into the mix-a divergence whose origins (in common with a lot of Sicilian food) owe much to Arabic cooking. Giorgio Locatelli, the London-based Italian chef and restaurateur, uses mint as his herb of choice for this; others go, as they more usually do up north, for basil; some use nothing more than tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. The recipe below is rather more baroque in its sweep, which seems entirely right for a dish that is inspired by Sicily. Throughout Italy, eaters do not grate Parmesan over pasta sauces that contain fish (or are very garlicky), so you should consider cheese here doubly ill-advised, unless you wish to substitute 14 cup grated pecorino for the anchovies. I like to use fusilli lunghi, which are like long golden ringlets (or, less poetically, telephone cords) but, if you can't find them, simply substitute regulation-size fusilli (or indeed any pasta of your choice). Since the sauce is unheated, it would be wise to warm the serving bowl first but, having said that, I absolutely adore eating this Sicilian pasta cold, should any be left over. It is so easy to make and, being both simple and spectacular, is first on my list for a pasta dish to serve when you have people round.

TOTAL TIME: 50 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive Prep: 10 min
Cook: 10 min
YIELD: 6 servings


  • Salt for pasta water, to taste
  • 1 14 pounds fusilli lunghi or other pasta of your choice
  • 8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 13 cup skinned almonds
  • 14 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Leaves from small bunch basil (approximately 1 cup, packed ), to serve
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Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to a boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook following the package instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it's meant to be ready.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.

Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking water and add 2 tablespoonfuls of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go.

Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it) and strew with the basil leaves.

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