Make sure you get the freshest home grown cherry tomatoes for this fabulous pasta dish. Currently they are in season in our neck of the woods and, lucky for us, our Farmer’s Market was brimming with every type imaginable.
When Milk Street (where we got this recipe) sampled this no-cook tomato sauce in Sicily, it was made the traditional way, with a large mortar and pestle. A food processor gets it done faster and more easily. But The Mr. wanted to do it the traditional way in his favorite gargantuan mortar and pestle. He felt the results would produce a better paste.
Topped with crisp, olive oil–infused croutons and toasted almonds, the dish is served warm or at room temperature after the pasta has had a few minutes to soak in the flavorful sauce. Instead of blanched, slivered almonds, we used sliced, but whole almonds roughly chopped are another option.
Please don’t over-process the second addition of tomatoes. The first half is pulsed to create a juicy sauce, but the rest are pulsed only until roughly chopped so that tomato chunks add bursts of bright color and texture, and boy did they!
I usually don’t combine bread with a pasta meal because of the heavy carb count, but those croutons are a must! Serve with a veggie-laden side salad to help compensate. It’s typical to grate some cheese over a pasta dish, but even though I served some on the side, we both felt it was not necessary and might even take away from the fresh taste. Will certainly make again!
Gemelli with Fresh Tomato-Almond Pesto and Croutons
- ¾ cup blanched slivered almonds
- 12 oz. gemelli or other short pasta
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn if large
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, divided
- 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
- 3 oz. crusty white bread, torn into rough ½-inch pieces (about 1¾ cups)
- In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high, toast the almonds, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside; reserve the skillet.
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, process ½ cup of the almonds, the garlic and 2 teaspoons salt until finely chopped, about 30 seconds.
- Add the basil and half of the tomatoes, then pulse until chopped and well combined, 4 to 6 pulses.
- Add the remaining tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of oil, then pulse just until the whole tomatoes are broken up, about 3 pulses.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, add the pasta and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, then toss. Let stand, tossing once or twice, for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.
- While the pasta stands, in the same skillet used to toast the almonds, toss the bread, remaining 4 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until the bread is crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Scatter the toasted bread and the remaining ¼ cup almonds over the pasta. Drizzle with additional oil and sprinkle with pepper.
Adapted from a recipe by Courtney Hill from Milk Street