Giada De Laurentiis’ Sicilian Pesto Is Traditional Pesto’s Golden, ‘Lighter and Fresher’ Cousin

Sunny in color and sweeter in taste, Giada De Laurentiis’ Sicilian pesto has to be tried.

A departure from the intensely green pesto you know and love, Sicilian pesto’s flavor profile is De Laurentiis’ fun opportunity to try pesto from a different region of Italy.

With just a handful of ingredients, her easy and quick recipe is a great weeknight pick.

Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis stands in her kitchen wearing coveralls and holding a large bowl of pasta.
Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis | Getty Images/Getty Images for NYCWFF

De Laurentiis was born in Rome

The Giada at Home star is a Roman citizen. De Laurentiis was born in The Eternal City and her family lived there until she was 6 years old. At that point, they moved to the United States.

“My family takes their culture very seriously, so even when we moved to the U.S., we still lived very Italian lives,” De Laurentiis said. “We spoke Italian at home, we only ate Italian food — and let me tell you, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, people were not as proud of their unique heritage as they are now.”

The popular chef explained that her family made the move to the U.S. thanks to her famous grandfather, film producer Dino De Laurentiis. If the patriarch went to America, they all did.

Giada De Laurentiis explains how Sicilian pesto is different from regular pesto

On her food and lifestyle blog Giadzy, De Laurentiis breaks down the difference between the sweeter Sicilian pesto and Pesto alla Genovese, the verdant sauce that most pesto lovers are familiar with.

“Pesto knows many forms all over Italy, and goes much further than just this one variety,” she notes.

Pesto, De Laurentiis explained, is thus named because in Italian it means “to pound” or “to crush,” referring to the traditional form of the recipe’s preparation using mortar and pestle. 

Pesto alla Genovese, de Laurentiis said, is the “King of pestos. The fresh herbaceous flavor of basil, the salty savoriness of cheese, the zing of garlic plus rich olive oil and pine nuts make magic together.”

Sicilian pesto, also known as Pesto alla Trapanese, “is much lighter and fresher tasting than the dishes of northern regions.”

What makes Sicilian pesto different from Pesto alla Genovese is “that it uses almonds as opposed to pine nuts, and gets finished with fresh tomatoes, which are bountiful in the south.”

The addition of tomatoes gives Sicilian pesto the sweetness that “regular” pesto doesn’t have as well as its uniquely golden hue.

How to make De Laurentiis’ Sicilian pesto

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What you’ll need for this recipe (here, via Giadzy) is simple. Slivered almonds, a garlic clove, basil leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. That’s it!

Pulse the almonds and garlic on their own in a food processor to break up the nuts. Add to that the basil, tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes until everything’s mixed. Then, as with traditional pesto, stream the olive oil until it’s incorporated. De Laurentiis suggests stirring the parmesan cheese in without use of the processor.

As well, the Eat Better, Feel Better author recommends Sicilian pesto on almost everything. Try it on pasta, bruschetta, or with just about any cut of meat.