British tomatoes have had a bad press over the years, being often labelled as flavourless or watery, which may explain why I can’t think of a British dish that heralds the fruit in its raw form. But things have changed. Go to any farmers’ market these days, and you’ll find delicious varieties from Kent to the Isle of Wight, so now is the time to indulge in raw tomato recipes. One of the best is today’s dish, a take on the Sicilian pasta alla Trapanese, in which tomatoes are grated fresh into a paste of roast almonds, then mixed with basil and the best olive oil you can get your hands on to form a glorious, fresh pesto.
Spaghetti with roast almond and tomato pesto
You’ll need a food processor to make the pesto, though you could also make it in a large mortar with a lot of elbow grease.
Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min
100g skin-on almonds
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 x 40g bunch basil, picked to get approx 30g, plus a few leaves extra to finish
4 tbsp (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to finish
1¼ tsp fine sea salt, plus extra for the pasta water
600g vine tomatoes, coarsely grated (to get 450g pulp)
2 large handfuls (60g) rocket leaves
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and spread out the almonds and one of the garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, then remove and leave to cool.
Once the nut mix has cooled, tip it all into a food processor, add the second garlic clove, the basil, oil and salt, and blitz to a semi-coarse paste.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously, then cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Carefully remove half a mug’s worth (about 100ml) of the pasta cooking water, put to one side, then drain the spaghetti and return it to the empty pan. Stir in the almond and basil pesto, then add the tomatoes and rocket, and toss the lot together, loosening the mix with the pasta water a splash at a time until it is a lovely, saucy consistency.
Transfer to four plates, top with a couple of basil leaves, drizzle over some good olive oil and dig in.