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Pasta with Salsa Trapanese

Justin Smillie makes his Trapanese sauce (a tomato-nut pesto) with mint and buttery, fried Spanish marcona almonds. "I'm a sucker for marconas," he says. He loves the toasty flavor they lend to the pasta sauce.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6

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  • 1 pound tomatoes, cored
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup marcona almonds
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 dried red chiles, seeded and chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate or bucatini
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving


  1. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until charred all over, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate and let cool completely, then coarsely chop them.
  2. In a medium skillet, toast the almonds over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a food processor and let cool completely. Add the capers, garlic and chiles and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse to form a coarse puree; season the tomato pesto with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the tomato pesto, mint, the 1/4 cup of grated cheese and the reserved cooking water; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve, passing additional cheese at the table.

Make Ahead

The tomato pesto can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Suggested Pairing

Lively, medium-bodied Italian red.

Photo © Christina Holmes

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