I've spoken at length about my love for pesto in all its forms, and you may have noticed I've posted several recipes featuring different kinds of pesto - in all its forms and regional nuances.
The name Pesto itself is the past participle of the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means "to pound", "to crush", in reference to the original method of preparation that involves pounding all the ingredients in a marble pestle and mortar.
Some of my favourite pesto recipes include my bucatini with dill and caper pesto or these busiate with lupini beans & pistachio pesto, my pumpkin gnocchi with sage & walnut pesto, or my mum's sun-dried tomato and almond pesto or these spaghetti nests with Sicilian pesto, mozzarella cherries and breadcrumbs.
This deliciously red pesto is creamy, tangy and slightly spicy thanks for a wonderful combination of ingredients:
cashews, a slightly less used nut in Sicily, compared to the very popular pistachio or almond; nevertheless, I like cashews in pesto because they give a much creamier texture when blended
tomato concentrate, a must-have ingredient in any Italian household
sun-dried tomatoes, one of the most beloved ingredients in Sicilian cuisine
fresh dill or wild fennel, another favourite in our cuisine
fresh red chillies, for heat; you can adjust this to your liking or skip entirely
The pasta itself - busiate - is as Sicilian as it gets. But more in detail below...
Busiate: a truly Sicilian pasta shape
Busiate are a type of long macaroni, originally from the Trapani province, and typical from Sicily.
An intersting fact (I just discovered) is that they take their name from busa, the Sicilian word for the stem of Ampelodesmos mauritanicus, a large, elegant perennial bunchgrass we in Sicily call disa, which is native to the Mediterranean region. The stem of this plant is very long and thin and resembles the metal instrument use to shape this pasta.
It one of my favourite shapes of pasta but, if you can't find it, you can replace it in this recipe with trofie, caserecce or strozzapreti - they'll be just as good.
Ingredients (for 2)
200g busiate pasta
70g sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
50g cashews, soaked in boiling hot water for 20 minutes
25g fresh dill or wild fennel leaves
2 tbsp double tomato concentrate (I use Mutti)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grated Sicilian pecorino
2 tbsp grated Caciocavallo (or other cheese like parmigiano)
1-2 fresh red chillies
2-3 tbsp of the pasta cooking water
Salt to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and throw in the pasta. Cook following package instructions.
While you wait, prepare the pesto. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and cashews.
Place them in a blender, along with the dill, tomato concentrate, the 2 cheeses, and season with salt.
Keeping the blender on, start adding the olive oil slowly, until you reach a creamy consistency. If you like your pesto to be silky and extra creamy, add some pasta cooking water slowly till your pesto is really smooth. If you like it a bit chunky, you can skip this step, or reduce the amount of water.
When the pasta is ready, place the pesto in a large mixing bowl and add the pasta to the same bowl, removing it form the water with a slotted spoon. I like to do this way, as opposed to draining the pasta in a colander, because some of the cooking water will transfer to the bowl and add creaminess to the pesto, while also warming it up.
Plate the pasta and serve immediately.