This is probably the most traditional pasta you can eat in the area of Trapani, in western Sicily. Both the pasta and the sauce are, together with fish couscous, the most well known dishes of the area. The sauce is very easy to make and it is the Trapanese version of pesto. It is similar to its “green counterpart”, but contains tomatoes and much more garlic, so much so that its common name among the locals is “pasta cull’agghia”, which literally means “pasta with garlic”. If you have romantic plans after your meal or you are a vampire, then this dish is not for you! 😉 Jokes apart, I love it. I used to spend my summer holidays in a little town by the sea called San Vito Lo Capo (Wiki) and my mom would make this pasta very often. It is traditionally served with slices of fried eggplant on the top. If you do not have the time to prepare busiati from scratch, you can substitute them with spaghetti. If you are willing to put your pasta making skills to the test, then follow my tutorial on “How to make your own busiati at home”.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
2 big cloves of garlic
1 tbsp almonds
1/2 bunch of basil
12-15 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp of Parmigiano Reggiano very finely grated
2 tbsp of Italian Pecorino Romano very finely grated
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying, preferably Sunflower oil
400 gms busiati (or spaghetti)
Method 1: Mortar pestle
Put the garlic, almonds and salt in the mortar pestle and crush them into a fine paste. Then add the basil leaves few at a time and keep crushing the paste until the sauce is finely ground. Then add the halved cherry tomatoes few at a time and mash them well. At the end pour the 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and both types of grated cheese and stir.
Method 2: Electric mixer/Hand mixer
Put the garlic, almonds and salt in the mixer and blend them into a fine paste. Then add the basil leaves and the halved cherry tomatoes and mix till the sauce is finely ground adding 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Then put in a bowl and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil and both types of grated cheese and stir.
Wash the eggplant and cut it into 1 cm thick slices. Put the slices in a big bowl full of cold water and add a handful of sea salt. Stir and leave the slices to soak for ½ hour. This will take their natural bitterness away.
Then drain the eggplant slices and dry them well. Shallow fry them in a frying pan with hot vegetable oil in batches and put the ready ones on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Keep adding oil to the frying pan as needed.
In the meantime, cook busiati following the steps on “How to cook pasta al dente”. Only in this case you will not have a pre set cooking time. This will vary on the thickness of your busiati (it should take approximately between 8 to 10 minutes). So, the best solution is to taste it! Remember, it does have to remain firm.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and serve it with the pesto sauce on top. Add a little extra olive oil if required, some grated cheese and some slices of fried eggplant on the top.