One afternoon, in a hole-in-the-wall in one of those tiny streets of Trapani, I had a lovely lunch of Busiate alla Trapanese.
The ‘Busiate’ pasta is very specific to Trapani. (That’s what the man in the little bar said anyway). Busiate is made from durum wheat flour, semola di grano duro rimacinato, with water only, no eggs, and twisted around its angle, so that it looks like stretched fusilli. We’re getting close to ancient Roman food here.
Busiate is pretty difficult to find outside of Sicily, but you can get durum flour online from Icnussa Food and Wine, and make it yourself – if you’re so inclined. Unless you’re an authenticity fanatic, it’s easier to reach for a packet of pasta rather than rolling it out yourself.
I can’t remember the name of the bar where I ate the pasta and pesto. I’d spent the morning looking at the wondrous collection of churches, bowled over by their sheer grandeur and longing for a peek at the skull of St Albert the Healer which, according to my padrone di casa, was housed in the Santuario di Maria SS di Trapani.
I couldn’t find Albert’s skull, a pity, so there went my chance of a little healing for my sore old hip. I would have liked an extra bit of spring in my step.
But no matter, there’s a stunning marble rendition of the Madonna of Trapani in the Santuario.
She has a sweet and engaging face and I longed for a zoom lens on my phone to capture its grace. She exuded an air of comfort somehow, and I was almost moved to prayer. Almost.
After staring, possibly for an hour, I was suddenly overcome with hunger. Hunger for something typically Trapanese, and was looking forward to chatting with some more friendly people of this little town who all seem to know Homer backwards. (I traversed the streets with Samuel Butler’s The Authoress of the Odyssey in my hand).
So I fell into a little bar and asked for something tipico di Trapani. In a few moments I had a dish of Busiate alla Trapanese.
The pesto is made with almonds, a change from the pine nuts. I’ve become very fond of the almonds, le mandorle, and search out biscotti and liquore made from these little gems. The almond pesto is possibly even nicer than pesto made with pistachio nuts.
Prepare the almonds : Cover the almonds with boiling water for a few minutes to loosen their skins, then when they’re cool enough to handle, slip off the skins with your fingers. Try not to cut corners and use ready blanched almonds, as nuts quickly lose their flavour without the protective skins.