Tomato pesto with capers and herbs comes from the Italian islands

Tomato pesto with capers and herbs comes from the Italian islands

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When I reached author and tour guide Katie Parla by phone, she was at her home in Rome. “Ciao! So, we’re talking about pesto, right? She’s warm and comforting, having just finished her latest book, The Food of the Italian Islands. I’m calling to talk to her about pesto, which is so underappreciated in southern Italy. Specifically, Pesto Pantescu, a pink tomato-based pesto is made on the island of Pantelleria, a small swath of land roughly halfway between Sicily and Tunisia that is inhabited by fewer than 10,000 people.

“It’s this volcanic island that’s part of Sicily, and it’s covered in vineyards and capers, and it’s windy and rugged… It’s a very magical place. I try to go as much as I can,” Parla says. Because it’s so hot on the island, many One of her traditional recipes involves as little cooking as possible.

Get the recipe: Pesto bantesco

The capers are hand-harvested in Pantelleria and are traditionally preserved in sea salt, which gives them a stronger flavor than that found in brine. They go into this pesto with fresh tomatoes, almonds, a little garlic, olive oil, basil, and mint. Instead of turning green, like the famous Nordic pesto, it turns somewhere between violet and bright red – depending on the color and ripeness of the tomatoes you use.

“Ligurian pesto from Genoa has become the brand that people think of,” Parla says. “But there are many types of pesto. Pesto is a pureed sauce or condiment. It can take many forms.” In his book Food of the Italian Islands, Parla writes about pesto made from pistachios that grow around Mount Etna; tomato pesto from Trapani, on the northwestern tip of Sicily; And Pesto Iuliana, which combines pistachios, almonds and salted capers.

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For her variation on pesto bantesco, Parla made a few tweaks to the traditional recipe. “Mine is a little more herbal than the ones you find in Pantelleria. When I think about developing recipes, I think about what flavor the final product will have. In the United States, tomatoes don’t have the same flavor as they do in Italy, so the extra herbs give them extra freshness. Italian tomatoes tend to have thinner skins than those from across the Atlantic, so Parla suggests blanching and peeling them, unless you’re picking tomatoes from your garden or a farm. “If you have very ripe summer tomatoes, there’s no need to peel them, and you can return A little weed.”

To concentrate the flavour, or if you are using faded tomatoes, you can also chop them and cook them with a little olive oil and garlic, for no more than 10 minutes, before continuing with the recipe. Worried that changing the recipe deviates too much from tradition? “I’m a fan of seasonal adjustments,” Parla says. “It may not be the case, but it is cooked with the Italian spirit.”

Pesto Pantesco can be served any way you like. Try on:

  • Cooked, hot pasta, such as spaghetti
  • Cold pasta, for pasta salad
  • Grilled or grilled vegetables
  • Just boiled potatoes
  • Crostini or fresh bread
  • Fried fish or chicken

Get the recipe: Pesto bantesco

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