Have you perhaps grown tired of the typical green basil pesto? In that case this recipe, Sicilian pesto, is ideal for you. Ingredients that are typical for this region are used: fresh and ripe red tomatoes, ricotta, pine nuts and of course basil. When put together, these ingredients create a paste that is at the same time light, fresh and nourishing. There is a myriad of regional recipes, and some of them call for almonds or dry tomatoes, or even pistachios, but the common denominator remains ricotta. This recipe is especially good on a hot summer’s day, but it can be had all year round. Prepare long and dry pasta, like spaghetti, casareccia or penne, with it for the best results. The leftovers can be had the next day as a spread over bread.
ca. 20 leaves fresh basil
250 gr/ 9 oz tomatoes
25 gr/ 1 oz pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
50 gr/ 1 2/3 freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano
75 gr/ 2 2/3 ricotta
salt and pepper to taste
75 ml/ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
dry pasta of your choice
Rinse and dry the basil leaves. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in two. Remove the inner part including the seeds and all excess liquid with a spoon. Put the tomatoes in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Add the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, ricotta and the grated parmigiano and continue the process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the oil and check the taste and consistency.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta by cooking it in salted boiling water until al dente. Combine with the pesto and serve immediately.
Guanciale is Italian cured pork cheek or jowl. The name is derived from guancia, which is Italian for cheek. To make guanciale, you rub pork cheeks with salt, sugar, and spices (typically ground black pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic) and cure it for three weeks. Because it’s largely fat, guanciale has a more seductive pork flavor and delicate texture than other pork products, such as pancetta, which is a common substitute. Guanciale is traditionally used in dishes like pasta carbonara and all’amatriciana. It is a delicacy of central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio, and not necessarily readily available in other regions. Here, green and crunchy peas have been added to the typical carbonara flavor. Although the addition of vegetables is not in common in Italy, they are often used elsewhere.
100 gr guanciale, diced
2 egg yolks, beaten
freshly grated Parmigiano
freshly grated Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper
In a pan without any oil, fry the sliced guanciale on a low heat. Once the pieces have browned, add the peas and cook for further 5-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks with a lot of black pepper, then add the mix of parmigiano and pecorino cheese. The consistency of the mixture should be paste like.
Meanwhile, cook the penne al dente in a pot of salted boiling water.
While the pasta is boiling, take one or two spoonfuls of the cooking water and add them to the egg yolk mix. Whisk until the mixture becomes creamy.
Add the cooked pasta into the guanciale and peas mixture, then turn the flame off and add the creamy egg yolks. Mix well and serve. Sprinkle some parmigiano and pecorino on each plate.
Alla gricia is one of the dishes that is available in every single street corner in Rome, but it is virtually unknown in the rest of the country. After all, we can’t speak of one unified Italian kitchen, but of several regional, and distinctly different, cuisines. This dish is actually the forefather of yet another typically Roman dish – amatriciana. Simple but delicious, alla gricia was created in the small town of Griciano in Northern Lazio before the tomato was introduced to Europe. Even today there is annual festival taking place, where they commemorate Griciano’s special contribution to the Italian food culture.
140 gr/5 oz guanciale or pancetta, diced
olive oil for frying
freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 dl/0.5 cup white wine (optional)
paccheri or rigatoni or bucatini
Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the guanciale, or pancetta, if the Roman delicacy isn’t readily available. Keep the temperature high so that the fat burns and the meat starts to brown. You can enhance the taste with white wine. Cook the pasta of your choice in a pot with salted boiling water until al dente. Mix the pasta and the sauce together and make sure that the pasta gets moist with the oil and guanciale. Serve each plate with freshly ground black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano.