Tag Archives: basil

Pesto – Two Ways


Pesto – Two Ways

1. Basil Pesto
Basilico is a beautiful plant and although pesto is very tasty it’s just not a pretty sauce. I even tried making it with purple basil – still didn’t look terrific but tasted good.basil dish

Basil Pesto


Put all the ingredients but just 1/2 of the nuts, in a food processor or blender. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts chop them coarsely first).

Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the second half of the nuts and pulse briefly leaving them in a larger size.

2.  Sicilian Pesto
This is similar to the standard pesto but the main differences are the addition of tomatoes and there is less basil. This is one of the special sauces that is traditionally served with only one particular type of pasta – bussiate. It’s made by wrapping pasta dough around a round, skewer-like piece of wood, in Italian called a buso, to form a spiral. It makes a short cork screw shape that’s good for holding onto the pesto. If you can’t get bussiate, try gemelli, spiralini or even short fusilli.

Sicilian Pesto


Put the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and finely chop. Then pour the chopped tomatoes into a strainer and drain the liquid and discard. Put the tomatoes with all the other ingredients back into the blender or processor until finely ground.

Sicilian dish

For both of the above recipes:

The sauce just needs to be at room temperature, not cooked. If it’s too thick, thin it with a little pasta water and then mix it with the pasta. Tear a few fresh basil leaves and sprinkle over the pasta before serving. Serve with extra cheese.

FYI – Pesto doesn’t have to made with basil. It’s simply a sauce made using a mortar and pestle (pestello in Italian), or it’s modern equivalent, a blender or food processor.

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Raw Puttanesca

Raw Puttanesca  

Aunt Lena in Miami in 1936

My Aunt Lena got this recipe from a chef in Salerno.  He told her the idea was that a woman could be out with her boyfriend all day and serve this to her husband when he got home – with him thinking that it took her all day to cook it when it wasn’t cooked at all.


  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped basil
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt & coarse black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1lb spaghetti



Put the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin cracks, then run cold water over them and peel off their skin. Cut them in half across the core and squeeze out the seeds.  Finely chop and put them in a large serving bowl.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, salt & pepper and cover with ½ cup of olive oil.

A few optional additions:  chopped anchovies, drained capers, chopped olives.

The ingredients should all be at room temperature before mixing with 1 lb. just cooked spaghetti.  The heat from the hot pasta will be all it needs.

Raw Puttanesca  is kind of a light and delicate summery sauce that’s almost a salad, so no cheese unless you must.

Summer Tomato Salad

tomato salad
Summer Tomato Salad


Summer Tomato Salad   Aunt Caroline would pick the basilico and tomatoes in her Staten Island kitchen garden just before she made this Summer Tomato Salad. The ice cubes were necessary because the tomatoes would still be hot from the sun.


  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup torn basil leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 5 or 6 ice cubes


Cut narrow wedges around the core, discarding the core. Cut each wedge in half and place in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss and let sit for 20 minutes. Before serving add the oil, basil and ice cubes, then toss again.