As I make my way through my backlogged recipes, clipped and filed and pasted and saved, I keep stumbling upon little gems. There are so many books crammed with clippings in my apartment that it's easy to quickly lose oversight of all the dishes I have yet to try. And no, I'm not that type-A that I have a database of recipes set up. Yet.
As I was flipping through a particular set a few days ago, I came across a recipe for Sicilian pesto from Marcella Hazan's latest cookbook that was excerpted in Tamasin Day-Lewis's Daily Telegraph column. I instantly remembered how alluring it sounded at the time, and was happy to realize that I still wanted to try it. Last week, I blogged about making plain old basil pesto, so I thought it would be only fitting to follow it up with this. It's totally simple to make, just like the original, with the exception that you have to blanch and peel some tomatoes. But the flavor is so unexpected and different, yet still subtle, that I think I might almost like it more than regular pesto.
Start by bringing a small pot of water to boil. Throw in a few plum tomatoes - I used tomatoes from Migliorelli Farms that were actually labeled as San Marzano tomatoes. (Is that even possible? I thought they were controlled and only available labeled as such in Italy. Like Champagne in France or something? I must be mixing my food provenance metaphors. Anyway, moving on.) After a few seconds, drain the tomatoes and peel off the skin, then cut them in half and de-seed them. These tomatoes were deeply red and had very few seeds. They were gorgeously pulpy - fantastic tomato sauce tomatoes. Here is a picture of the eviscerated fruits, skins and seeds to one side. These folks might take offense.
After that, you throw some peeled almonds, a clove of garlic, the chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes, mint, grated Parmigiano, olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Whir it all together until it's creamy.
Boil up some spaghetti, toss with the pesto, grate on extra Parmigiano and enjoy it piping hot. There is something sultry about the flavor of the sauce - the tomatoes and mint and red pepper flakes bring an entirely different dimension to the dish and it's a welcome change from predictable pesto. And since the tomatoes are blended beyond recognition, I bet I could make this for my tomato-hating friends and they'd never know...