My Sicilian Tomato Pesto Sauce is a classic, Italian, no cook sauce that captures the essence of traditional Sicilian pesto, perfect for celebrating tomato season in the summer months. We start with perfectly ripe, fresh tomatoes, garlic, and a touch of fresh basil. Almonds add a delightful nuttiness, while Pecorino Romano cheese brings a sharp, tangy balance. Simply toss it with hot pasta for a refreshing summer meal bursting with Italian sunshine!

Sicilian tomato pesto sauce in a jar with a plate of pasta

Sicily boasts some of Italy’s most delicious Italian cuisine often featuring simple dishes made with a handful of ingredients that most of us have. 

Take this Pesto alla Siciliana, a lesser-known gem compared to its classic basil Pesto alla Genovese.Take Pesto alla Siciliana, a lesser-known gem compared to its classic basil cousin. 

This vibrant sauce swaps vibrant greens for a tomato base, complemented by the nutty richness of almonds and a touch of sweetness from naturally ripe tomatoes. Garlic adds a subtle depth without overpowering the other flavors Remember, high-quality extra virgin olive oil is essential – don’t skimp here!

Rigatoni and Sicilian pesto sauce in a white bowl

A Sicilian Twist: How Trapanese Pesto Set Sail 

The history of Sicilian pesto is a fascinating one. Sailors from Liguria, known for their classic Ligurian pesto that is walnut-based, docked in the Sicilian port of Trapani. Inspired by local ingredients, they cleverly adapted their recipe.  Out went the walnuts, replaced by the sweetness of cherry tomatoes and the rich nuttiness of almonds. This ingenious swap gave birth to this Pesto Trapanese recipe, a delicious testament to Sicilian culinary creativity!

This recipe stays true to the traditional recipe. Using only the freshest ingredients: ripe tomatoes, fragrant basil, and aromatic garlic. Almonds add a touch of nuttiness, while Pecorino Romano cheese provides a signature tang.  Simple yet flavorful, this sauce is a perfect example of Italian tomato sauce.

Not Familiar with Pecorino Romano?

This sheep’s milk cheese resembles Parmesan but packs a bolder flavor punch, perfect for grating into sauces and adding an extra layer of complexity.  Of course, feel free to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano if you prefer a milder taste.

 If you’re not familiar with Pecorino cheese, it looks like Parmesan cheese, but it is a sheep’s milk cheese that has a stronger flavor which is perfect for grating into sauces and adding an extra flavor boost. If you prefer, you can also use Parmigiano Reggiano.

Craving a Creamier Sauce?

Some recipes swap Pecorino Romano for fresh ricotta, creating a luxuriously creamy texture and a milder flavor profile. This is a fantastic option if you prefer a less sharp cheese flavor!

The Best Tomatoes for Pesto:

While seasonal cherry tomatoes are ideal for this recipe, you have other delicious options! Vine tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, or plum tomatoes all work beautifully – just be sure they’re nice and ripe for the sweetest, most flavorful pesto.

Rigatoni and Sicilian pesto on a fork

Nutty Variations for Pesto Trapanese 

Sicilian almonds are the traditional choice for this vibrant red pesto, but feel free to explore other delicious options!

  • Can’t find Sicilian almonds? No problem! Regular almonds work perfectly, and you can even leave the peel on for an extra textural element.
  • Craving a different nuttiness? Toasted pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, or slivered almonds are all fantastic substitutes.
  • Pistachio passion? Go for it! My Pistachio Pesto recipe is another delicious way to enjoy this classic sauce with a unique twist.

Toasting Your Own Almonds:

Don’t have pre-roasted almonds? No problem! Here’s a quick and easy way to toast them yourself:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Spread the almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 8 minutes for slivered almonds and 10-12 minutes for whole almonds. Slivered almonds toast faster, so keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.

Remember, toasted almonds add a deeper flavor to your pesto. 

Creative Ways to Enjoy this Traditional Pesto

This vibrant pesto isn’t just for pasta! Here are some inspiring ideas to get your creative culinary juices flowing:

  • Classic Twist: Toss it with hot, al dente pasta for a satisfying and familiar meal.
  • Sun-Kissed Delight: Elevate your pasta dish with a topping of sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a burst of flavor and color.
  • Room Temperature Refreshment: For a lighter option, serve the pesto with pasta at room temperature.
  • Chilled Summer Salad: Transform your leftover pesto into a refreshing pasta salad! Simply toss cooked pasta with the pesto, chill it, and enjoy a cool and flavorful side dish.

Chunky or Smooth Pesto

When it comes to texture, this pesto offers delicious flexibility. Blend it for a smooth and creamy consistency, or embrace a slightly chunky texture that lets you savor those delightful almond bits.  I personally love it with a bit of chunk!

Make ahead Pesto

This pesto actually tastes even better the next day, as the flavors have a chance to meld and develop beautifully. Make it ahead for a quick and delicious meal – it’ll keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

This recipe yields 2 cups/1 pint

If you have made this Sicilian Tomato Pesto Sauce, please leave a comment below and let me know how it turned out.

Yield: 2 cups/1 pint

Sicilian Tomato Pesto Sauce

A jar filled with Sicilian Tomato Pesto Sauce

Sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil garlic and almonds along with a little tang from Pecorino Romano .

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • ⅓ cup (42 grams) slivered or roasted, unsalted almonds (see note)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1-pound (454 grams) cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup (6 grams) fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup (50 ml) extra virgin olive oil


  1. Add the almonds, garlic and cheese to a blender or food processor and pulse until the almonds are chopped. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Pulse until the tomatoes are chopped.
  2. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil until the sauce is the consistency you like.
  3. Transfer to sealed jars. Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or freeze for 3 months.


If you can’t find them already roasted, preheat oven to 350°F/180°C, spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 8 minutes for the slivered, 10-12 for whole. Slivered will roast up faster than whole almonds so keep an eye on them.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 253Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 7mgSodium 360mgCarbohydrates 7gFiber 2gSugar 3gProtein 5g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.