Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese

Popping-fresh cherry tomatoes enhance pasta with a pesto variation.

By Molly O'Neill

When Lidia Bastianich cooks with her grandchildren, this recipe, adapted from Lidia’s Italy (Knopf), is one of her standbys. “It’s so fresh and clean,” Bastianich says, “and it is a cinch to make.” Inspired by one of Bastianich’s good friends in Italy, it is a simple variation on basil pesto. The secret is in the cherry tomatoes, which should be very ripe and at the peak of sweetness. When her grandchildren help her make the sauce, she often loses a few tomatoes in the process. “Kids love to pop them in their mouths,” Bastianich says. “They might eat a few.”

Ingredients:
3/4 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry
12 large fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 plump garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Directions:
1. In a blender or the bowl of food processor, combine the tomatoes, basil leaves, almonds, garlic, peperoncino, and salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large pieces remain.

2. With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. If you’ll be serving the pasta within two hours, store the pesto at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.

3. To cook the spaghetti, bring 6 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a large warm serving bowl. Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Serves 4 to 6

Experience more of Bastianich's passion for Italian cooking at lidiasItaly.com.

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