New Pastas [And Sicilian Pesto]

With only a week away from Italy, I am already missing my daily intake of pasta!  I was also excited to try a few new products from Felicia Bio, a company based in the Southern Italian province of Puglia.  Their pastas are gluten free, organic, and made from alternative flours like brown rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat...etc.  These variations on classic pastas are becoming increasingly popular in Italy, so I thought I would give them a try.  I am not a promoter nor a detractor of "gluten free", I just like foods that taste good and are good for you.

One of my favorite pasta sauces, luckily, is also a fairly easy one.  Pesto alla Trapanese is a Sicilian pesto, originated in the province of Trapani, Sicily and is made with ingredients that are native to the region....almonds and tomatoes.  While I have never been a big fan of the classic pesto (basil based), Pesto alla Trapanese is a little more mild and creamy.  And I absolutely love almonds and tomatoes. 

This sauce is even easier if you have the right kitchen tools.  Luckily, I have an Elekta blender/grinder that turned my toasted almonds to dust pretty easily.  A mortar, pestle and a bit of elbow grease is the way the Sicilians made it in the old days, so that works too.  After the grinder, it was on to the blender, to add in the olive oil, tomatoes and basil.  A few more whirls, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. 

 I love pesto on fusilli because they hold the sauce just perfectly amid all those little twisty curves.  The Felicia Bio Brown Rice pasta cooked up in about 7 minutes and was fairly hearty, similar to, but lighter than, a whole wheat pasta.  You can then mix in lots of pesto to really coat the pasta (see below), or, if you are like me, you can add just a little.  I like to get a lot of flavor from the actual pasta itself!
While brown rice pasta is generally healthier than regular pasta, it certainly is not the sexiest choice... however, buckwheat is.
 I cooked up some buckwheat fusilli to see how they would measure up.  Buckwheat is a really pronounced, nutty flavor that you may recognize if you have ever spent any time in northern France eating the famous buckwheat galettes (crepes).  It is a very dark grain flour that is quickly becoming very trendy on the menus of restaurants that are touting their use of ancient grains. And this pasta really delivers on that special flavor.
I was also really happy to see how nice and firm the pasta stayed when it was finished cooking, as I have found that some less desirable pastas will switch from being perfectly al dente one minute, to mush in the next.  And the best part is that you can get these Felicia Bio pastas here in Abu Dhabi!  (and of course other places too).
To be able to really taste that amazing buckwheat flavor, I left things light.  I tossed the hot pasta with cooked chickpeas, avocado, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper...and of course parmigiano.  We know that pasta is delicious, but who says it can't be healthy too? 

Pesto alla Trapanese
1 lb pasta (short)
about 1 lb of tomatoes peeled and seeded
4 oz almonds toasted and peeled
A nice handful of basil
1 clove garlic
scant half cup of olive oil
1/4 cup parmigiano

Mix almonds with the basil in the blender or food processor,  add oil slowly while mixing.  Add the tomatoes little by little until the pesto is creamy and pink.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then put the pesto in a container with a whole clove of garlic.  Let rest for a couple of hours, after which you will take out the garlic clove. Before eating, bring the pesto to at least room temperature.  Cook the pasta to al dente.  Then cover the hot pasta with the pesto, toss well and serve with parmigiano!


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