Pasta and pesto makes the perfect quick dinner, and I’m really pleased that the lovely Alberto has given me his recipe for a Sicilian version. I’ve got no end of cookbooks, but there’s something particularly nice about a recipe that’s begged for, scribbled on a piece of paper and passed on after a delicious meal. I acquired this one as part of a food swap, in which Paul and I gave a bit of a breadmaking lesson in return for gnocchi and pesto. You can’t argue with a deal like that.

With the same herby, garlicky potency as a common or garden basil pesto, this recipe is lighter and fresher in flavour, and is more of a sauce than an oily paste. It makes a lovely change, and is very easily made in a large mixing bowl with a stick blender.

Alberto’s used to cooking for huge numbers of people at once and says that the recipe below should do for four to six people with pasta or gnocchi, but I’ve just made it with all the quantities halved and I reckon that even that will serve four. It should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

Sicilian pesto

150g basil leaves
200g parmesan/grana padano/ricotta – use a combination, according to taste, to make up 200g
4 garlic cloves
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
4 red peppers
4 medium tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes
100g pine nuts

Optional additions:
100g rocket
100g feta

  1. Drizzle the peppers with a little oil and roast until the skin starts to blacken in places – I did this in an oven at 220°C for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then remove and discard the stalks and seeds.
  2. While the peppers are in the oven, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan.
  3. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and blend to a smooth sauce with a stick blender; obviously you could do this in a food processor instead. If your blender’s not up to much, it might be best to blend the basil, cheese, garlic and olive oil first, then add the other ingredients and blend again.
  4. Check the seasoning; I stirred in a little finely grated parmesan now, as well as adding salt, but it depends on the cheeses you’ve used.
  5. Serve with hot pasta or gnocchi, scattered with a little more parmesan.