Pasta with Tomato and Almond Pesto

Have you heard that they are remaking Dirty Dancing? 

I know. 

How can you improve on it? What could be better than Patrick Swayze dancing? Is the new "Baby" going to carry a watermelon? Please tell me if someone is going to put her in a corner. 

This is the movie that always seemed special to me because I couldn't see it until I was "older." The movie I remember my mom watching the end of over and over again. I even remember her turning to me all starry-eyed after watching it and saying, "She jumped" like it was the most amazing thing ever. How can you remake magic like that? 

Some things just don't need revision.  

You may be thinking something similar about messing around with pesto. What could be better than the classic basil/pine nuts/olive oil/parmesan flavor? 

I wouldn't think of this tomato pesto as a remake of the classic, wonderful pesto flavors. I think of it is a twist on the original that is just as good. It's like comparing the 90's movie "Clueless" to the Gywneth Paltrow version of "Emma." Same basic formula, but each wonderful in their own right. 

In this case, the basic formula is some nut, this time toasted almonds, processed with some herbs or other flavoring, in this case tomatoes and basil, with olive oil and parmesan. It's so fast to put together that by the time your pasta is cooked, your pesto is ready. And as far as taste goes - it's just plain delicious. The original recipe calls for cherry or grape tomatoes but seeing how we are in tomato season I would use whatever is fresh from your garden or farmer's market. It's a meal that you make for yourself on a weeknight because it is so fast, but it is impressive enough to serve company. 

It's a revision that's as good as the classic.

Pasta with Tomato and Almond Pesto

Note: A half teaspoon of red wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes can be substituted for the pepperoncini. If you don’t have a food processor, a blender may be substituted. In step 2, pulse ingredients until roughly chopped, then proceed with the recipe, reducing processing times by half.


1/4 cup slivered almonds
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes (about 2 1/2 cups; or substitute with 12 ounces of any fresh tomato)
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tsp)
1 small pepperocini (hot peppers in vinegar) stemmed, seeded and minced (about 1/2 tsp; see note)
Table salt
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta, preferable linguine or spaghetti
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup) plus extra for serving


1. Toast almonds in small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pale golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Cool almonds to room temperature.

2. Process cooled almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepperoncini, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes (if using) in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, slowly drizzle in oil, about 30 seconds.

3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.

4. Add pesto and ½ cup Parmesan to cooked pasta, adjusting consistency with reserved pasta cooking water so that pesto coats pasta. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

Serves: 4-6

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated

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