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Casarecce Pasta with Pesto alla Trapanese

Casarecce Pasta with Pesto alla Trapanese is a simple summery dish that can be on your table in less than 30 minutes.  This fun and hearty pasta is coated in a tasty tomato-based pesto that is just loaded with flavor.  I dare you to have just one helping!

A white bowl of casarecce pasta with tomato pesto

Casarecce with tomato pesto is a delicious way to use fresh tomatoes and herbs from your garden.  The homemade pesto sauce is a great alternative to classic tomato sauce and paired with this twisted pasta it makes a flavorful dish that the whole family will love. This chunky pasta sauce does not need to be cooked, making it ideal for busy weeknights when you need something quick and tasty. 

WHAT IS CASARECCE PASTA?

One of my favorite things about pasta is that there are so many different shapes to choose from.  Casarecce, which means “homemade” in Italian, is a short, twisted pasta shape that resembles rolled scrolls.  The curves and scrolls in casarecce noodles make this type of pasta the perfect shape for holding sauces. 

When made by hand, small rectangular pieces of pasta dough are wrapped around a metal rod called a “ferro”.  In commercial production, the pasta dough is extruded through Teflon or bronze dies.  Pasta made with bronze dies is considered superior because it has a rough texture for sauces to cling to.

Casarecce pasta on a wooden board.

TRADITIONAL SICILIAN PASTA

Casarecce pasta originated in Sicily and is quite popular throughout southern Italy.  It is most often served with fresh ingredients and sauces made of typical southern Italian and Mediterranean ingredients.  Fresh vegetables, like tomatoes and eggplants, cheese and even fish or seafood are commonly paired with casarecce.  

Sicilian pesto is also a wonderful topping for these short pasta noodles.  I bet you didn’t even realize that Sicily is known for pesto!

Sicilian pesto, like it’s cousin from northern Italy, is made with fresh basil, cheese, and nuts.  Sicily is known for several types of pesto which include almonds or pistachio.  One of the most popular versions is Pesto alla Trapanese, which comes from the Province of Trapani.  

Pesto alla Trapanese is one of my favorite pesto recipes.  This version is made with almonds, basil, garlic, tomatoes and a few mint leaves.  The pecorino cheese used in this local recipe gives it a nice salty bite.  

Ingredients with labels, pasta, olive oil, basil, mint cheese, almonds and red pepper flakes.

INGREDIENTS, NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS

This easy pasta recipe requires some simple ingredients that are readily available in your local grocery store.

  • Casarecce Pasta:  This shape has become much easier to find in most grocery stores.  If you do have trouble finding it in the pasta aisle, you can substitute one of your favorite short curly pasta shapes.  
  • Plum tomatoes:  I love the meatiness of plum tomatoes for pesto, but traditionally cherry tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine are the tomatoes of choice.  There is no need to peel or seed the tomatoes.
  • Almonds: Blanched slivered or whole almonds can be used.  You can also substitute pine nuts or pistachios in this recipe.
  • Fresh Basil: Washed and dried, with stems removed.
  • Fresh Mint Leaves:  You only need a few mint leaves and using them is optional, but I highly recommend it.  You don’t really taste the mint, but it adds a lovely fresh flavor to the sauce.
  • Fresh Garlic:  Whole cloves with skins removed.   
  • Pecorino Romano:  Using good quality, freshly grated cheese is key to making a flavorful sauce.  A blend of pecorino and Parmesan cheeses is also a good option. 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: You will want a good quality olive oil for this recipe.  I recommend using extra virgin because it adds to the creaminess of the sauce.
  • Red Pepper Flakes:  The addition of red pepper flakes is optional, but it gives the pesto a lovely little kick.  If you don’t want it to be spicy you can reduce the amount in the recipe or leave it out entirely.      

HOW TO MAKE THIS EASY CASARECCE PASTA RECIPE

Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to package directions.  

4 photos of making tomato pesto in a food processor.
  1. While the pasta cooks make the pesto: Combine the almonds, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds have broken down to your desired consistency.  
  2. Add the basil, mint, tomatoes, and red pepper (if you are using it) to the food processor and pulse until combined. 
  3. With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a stream.  
  4. Pour the pesto into a bowl and stir in the pecorino.  Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water, then toss the casarecce and the pesto together.  Serve with additional grated cheese.

COOKING TIPS

  • Cook the pasta to al dente.  No one wants mushy pasta.  
  • Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water so you can thin out the sauce if it is too thick.
  • Toss the cooked pasta and the pesto off the heat.  This is a fresh sauce, which is not meant to be cooked so you don’t want to get it too hot, or it will lose it’s garden fresh flavor.
A white bowl of twisty pasta tossed in a tomato pesto next to a wooden bowl of tomatoes.

VARIATIONS

Other Sicilian pesto recipes that are often served with casarecce pasta are pistachio or almond pesto.

Casarecce is a great shape to sub into easy pasta recipes like Penne Pomodoro  or  Garlic Chicken Parmesan Pasta.

Try casarecce with a flavorful alfredo sauce or other creamy sauces. 

Pesto Trapanese can also be made with a 50/50 blend of basil and mint.

STORING LEFTOVERS

Leftover pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container.  It can be reheated in the microwave. Just cover it loosely so it doesn’t splatter.

FAQ’s

What are some substitutes for Casarecce pasta?

Other pastas that are similar in shape are Gemelli, Strozzapreti, Garganelli, Trofie, Penne, or Rotini.

How much pasta should you make per person?

According the the serving charts in Why Italy, you should plan on about one cup or 2 oz of pasta per person.

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Casarecce Pasta recipe or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

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a white bowl with short pasta in a tomato pesto sauce.

Casarecce Pasta with Pesto Trapanese

Casarecce is a short twisted pasta that is perfect for holding sauces. This versatile pasta is paired with a tomato based pesto for an easy and flavorful summer pasta recipe that is done in less than 30 minutes.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course dinner, Main Course, Primo
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 496 kcal

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. Casarecce Pasta or other short pasta shape
  • ½ cup Almonds blanched, whole or slivered
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • ½ cup Basil fresh
  • 4-5 Mint Leaves
  • 3 cups Plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • cups Pecorino Romano Cheese grated, or a 50/50 blend with parmesan,
  • ½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to package directions.  
  • While the pasta cooks make the pesto: Combine the almonds, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds have broken down to your desired consistency. 
  • Add the basil, mint, tomatoes, and red pepper (if you are using it) to the food processor and pulse until combined.
  • With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a stream.
  • Pour the pesto into a bowl and stir in the pecorino.  Season with salt and black pepper to taste
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water then toss the casarecce and the pesto together.  Serve with additional grated cheese.

Notes

COOKING TIPS

  • Cook the pasta to al dente.  No one wants mushy pasta.  
  • Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water so you can thin out the sauce if it is too thick.
  • Toss the cooked pasta and the pesto off the heat.  This is a fresh sauce, which is not meant to be cooked so you don’t want to get it too hot, or it will lose it’s garden fresh flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 496kcalCarbohydrates: 65gProtein: 17gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.002gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 147mgPotassium: 563mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1215IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 186mgIron: 2mg
Keyword no cook sauce, pasta, tomato pesto, nuts, almonds, fresh herbs, cheese
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