INGREDIENTS

  • 50 g shelled, unskinned almonds
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp finely grated pecorino cheese
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 400 g Fusilli Lunghi or other pasta spirals

PREPARATIONS

  1. Cover the almonds with boiling water for a few minutes to loosen their skins, then slip them off with your fingers when they are cool enough to handle. Try not to cut corners and use ready blanched almonds, as nuts quickly lose their flavor without their protective skins. Toast the almonds in a non-stick frying pan, stirring frequently for a few minutes until they are pale gold.
  2. Whizz the basil, garlic and a little coarse sea salt in a food processor and tip into a large bowl. Process the almonds, again with a little salt, using the pulse button, until they’re the size of small grains of rice.
  3. Peel the tomatoes, de-seed by halving and squeezing over the sink, then chop into medium dice. Mix the tomatoes and the almonds into the basil and garlic, add the grated cheese and olive oil and mix well.
  4. Taste and season with pepper and – only if needed – a little salt.
  5. Boil the pasta in the usual way, taking care to keep it very al dente, especially if you are planning to serve it cold. The Sicilians are probably the most challenging of all Italians about pasta, and they are very quick to declare it “scotta,” which means overcooked. To judge when to drain the pasta, cut a piece of pasta open: when it has a tiny uncooked white speck at the center, drain it. It will be cooked all the way through by the time you serve it.
  6. Drain the pasta but reserve a couple of ladles of the pasta water. Tip the pasta into the bowl with the pesto and mix it gently but quickly, so that the melting cheese is well distributed. Add a little pasta water if necessary so the sauce lightly coats each pasta corkscrew. The pasta can be served now, lukewarm, or at room temperature, but don’t chill, as this dulls the heady aromas which are the joy of this dish.
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