Up until the last year, I was decidedly NOT a pesto person. Maybe it’s my irrational aversion to pine nuts, maybe it’s my fear of walking around with food stuck in my teeth…maybe it’s a texture issue. Whatever the root cause, pesto and I simply were not buddy-buddy. Then Mr W and I went on our honeymoon in Sicily and my travel food rules kicked in.
“Jen…what are your travel food rules?”
Oh, I’m so glad you asked!
Jen’s Laws of Eating While Traveling
- Thou shall avoid *chain restaurants at all times. (Why would I eat someplace I can eat at home? Go Local!)
- Thou shall eat out no more than *two meals a day. (For both cost and waistline purposes.)
- Thou shall rely on UrbanSpoon, Yelp and, when in Europe, Rick Steves for dining suggestions.
- Thou shall try *local foods and things one has never heard of.
By now you’ve noticed my asterisks. That’s because I am a woman and there are exceptions to every rule.
Jen’s Axioms of Eating While Traveling
- P.F. Chang’s and Chipotle are the only exceptions to the aforementioned chain rule. (The reasons for this rule should be obvious.)
- If traveling in Europe, one or two meals a day should come from a trip to the local supermarket. (This lowers costs and provides the chance to sample foods you might otherwise miss…like salmon in a tube, meat pies, Innocent smoothies, unique candy bars and a million other items.)
- It is always wise to ask what is in a “local dish.” It is important to know that tripe = intestines and that haggus = oatmeal stuffed in a stomach and so on.
- While trying local foods is important, trust your gag reflex
That’s how it came to pass that I ordered “Pasta Alla Trapanese” in Erice, Sicily while on my honeymoon. We had spent thirty minutes wandering through stone roads in a walled city at the top of a mountain in order to find what Rick Steves claimed to be some of the best pizza in Sicily. Unfortunately when we arrived, we were told they only serve pizza at dinner time.
As we perused the menu, I noticed a listing for “Pasta Alla Trapanese.” I speak Italian well enough to know that meant “Trapani style Pasta” and since Trapani was the nearest major city, I knew it was a local dish. A quick bit of research in my Lonely Planet guide book told me to expect a “popular local pesto made of ground almonds, fire roasted tomatoes, basil and cheese.”
Um yeah I want THAT.
It was delicious!
Of course outside of the Trapani region of Sicily, this is not exactly a popular dish. Before long, I forgot all about it. Until I noticed the giant bag of roasted almonds in my cupboard that I bought and never bothered to eat a few months back. Off I went to the Internet and sure enough, I found a site with a recipe. It sounded close, but I’m me. I made some adjustments.
The results were wonderful. The pesto took me a whopping 9 minutes to make with the help of my Santoku knife and the MagicBullet. The best part? There’s no need to cook the sauce. I literally whipped it up in the Magic Bullet while my water came to a boil. I then tossed a quick salad in the amount of time it took to boil the delicious handmade fettuccine I brought home from the farmer’s market that day. The entire meal? Less than 20 minutes to get on the table.
The quality of the meal? Absolutely company worthy.
Pasta Alla Trapanese
(adapted from Italian Food Forever)
- 1.2 c almonds
- 14 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/3 c fresh basil
- 1/2 c grated fresh romano cheese
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- Hot Pepper Flakes to taste
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
If you are lucky enough to have a food processor, drain the can of tomatoes and then throw everything into the food process and pulse until it’s pesto consistency. If you are me, toss it all in a bowl and then whirl it in two batches in the magic bullet. Toss with hot pasta and serve.
Told you! Easy!
The reception on this one was marvelous. The kids couldn’t get enough of it. All three them wolfed it down, as did Mr W, Tapioca and myself. I haven’t had a chance to make it again yet, but it’s in the plans for this week.