Cooking with Karin

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Spaghetti Trapanese

I promised to share my other new "favorite" pasta recipe today, and I'm delivering.

This pasta is inspired by one I had at a restaurant in Atlanta. Girl-child and I were visiting the High Museum of Art, and were wondering around mid-town looking for a place to have lunch. We love Italian food, so decided to stop in at Baraonda, which is right near the Fox Theater.

We started with some thin, handmade foccacia with rosemary and olive oil. It was really delicious, and a $1.50, a great deal!

For our mains, we shared a Casare salad and a pasta I'd never heard of before: Trapanese. The menu described it as, "linguini, ground almonds, grated tomatoes, garlic, basil & EVOO." It was divine, and a combination I'd never had before. I am definitely revisiting this restaurant the next time I'm in Atlanta to give some of their other menu items a try. Everything was very fresh and absolutely delicious!

I came home from the trip and decided to try my hand at recreating it at home. My first attempt was just OK, but my second try was perfection. The problem the first time was that the menu called for grated tomatoes. I tried grating them, but I just didn't get the right consistency.

The second time out, I did a little research and found out that Trapanese is usually referred to as Pesto Trapanese, a Sicilian version of pesto, so since it was a pesto I used my food processor to combine everything (instead of just using it to grind the almonds). I substituted grape tomatoes for the whole tomato I tried the first round and the end result was a great pasta dish that I'll make again and again.

It doesn't look like much compared to the traditional bright green pasta with pesto, but it packs a punch from fresh basil (just not as much basil as in traditional pesto), and I love the way the almonds maintain their crunch as opposed to the pine nuts, which are much more expensive to boot.

Here's the recipe. I hope you'll give it a try!

Spaghetti Trapanese

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted in a skillet and set aside to cool
1 container (standard, not the double size) grape tomatoes, rinsed and drained on paper towels or a kitchen towel
Leaves from 1 package of fresh basil (or 1/2-3/4 cup of packed basil leaves, if you grow your own)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to your preference (al dente or a little more done, depending on how you like it).

While you boil the water and cook the pasta, combine the almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until fairly smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, return top and remove the center piece so that you can drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil.

When the pasta is done, remove 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the pesto and Parmesan and stir. If you'd like it more saucy, add some of the cooking water (start with about 1/2 cup and see if that is the consistency you're looking for). Season with pepper and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table, if desired.

Makes about 6 servings.

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