Serves 4 to 6
Pesto has become very familiar in American homes by now— that is, pesto made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, and pignoli nuts. Well, this one is different— it is an uncooked sauce freshly flavored with herbs, almonds, and tomatoes. It is a recipe I discovered in Sicily while researching for Lidia’s Italy, and I have received countless e-mails about this recipe, praising its simplicity and rich flavor. I am sure it will become one of your favorites.
- ¾ pound (about 2½ cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
- 12 large fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
- 1 plump clove garlic, crushed and peeled
- ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta pot
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano
Rinse the cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, and pat them dry. Drop the tomatoes into a blender jar or food- processor bowl, followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl, and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.
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’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate it for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)
To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in a large pot. Slip in the spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl. Lift the cooked spaghetti up, drain briefly, and drop directly into the pesto.
Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.