What makes a pesto a pesto? I asked myself that question one dinner in Bologna as I stared uncomfortably into the dish of white lard known as Bolognese pesto. It was spiced fat. Spiced mushed fat. You can imagine my disappointment. Pesto in my mind meant something with herbs, with nuts, with an abundance of cheese, that is fresh and at the same time with a heavy punch. I really wasn’t planning on eating lard for dinner.
When we speak of pesto we usually mean the Genovese pesto that features basil, garlic, pine nuts, pecorino and olive oil. So what makes a pesto a pesto? Pesto comes from pestare, which means to grind or crush. That’s a lesson for you, anything resembling a sauce made in a pestle and mortar can technically be deemed as a pesto.
So here’s a Trapanese peso. It’s a Sicilian pesto that contains tomatoes and almonds that you can smear on everything, or just tossed in a pasta or a salad. I was going to make a classic Genovese pesto with pine nuts but pine nuts are damn expensive in this country. I used to get pine nuts for free. My grandmother used to take me out to look for pine nut cones out in the wild. Well, more like the park. But they were aplenty! They were free! What is this £5 a bag nonsense.
Makes about 2 cups
2 plum tomatoes
2 sun dried tomato slices
50g almonds(or to taste)
2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch basil
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes (or to taste)
100g parmesan (or to taste)
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
First bring a pot of water to the boil. Remove the core from the top of the tomato and using a sharp knife, score an “X” at the bottom of the tomato.
Drop in boiling water for 15 seconds, and take out. Peel the skin off.
In a food processor, or a pestle and mortar, put in all the ingredients. Blitz and then add olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.