CAVATELLI WITH PESTO ERICINO

In the Monti Iblei area, the cultivation of the olive goes back to the times of Magna Grecia. There are historical references from later ages, notably the testimony offered by the “Universities” of Buccheri, Mineo and Chiaramonte Gulfi who witnessed a flourishing of the olive industry and the commerce of olive oil. Another indication of antiquity is the existence of Pandette (ancient commercial agreements) that refer to the product. Indeed, olive oil was so precious in this area that it was even used by families as a form of currency for livestock trading or the purchase of other rare commodities. Olio Extravergine d’Oliva Monti Iblei has a maximum acidity of 0.65 percent. It is green in color, has a medium fruity scent and a fruity taste. Olive-growing remains a very important economic activity in this area. The major variety used is known variously as the Tonda Iblea, Cetrala, Prunara, Abbunara or Tunna and it makes a good table olive as well. The oils produced in this zone have a long tradition of use by local and national consumers alike. The Iblei mountains cause a notable discrepancy between daytime and night-time temperatures, a phenomenon which intensifies the peculiar properties of local agricultural produce. The production zone is located in the provinces of Syracuse, Ragusa and Catania, and is divided into eight subsections that produce diverse varieties that compete against each other.

 

Pesto ericino is used to dress different types of pasta, especially fresh hand-made pasta like orecchiette, cavatelli, rigatoni and conchiglie.

 

Instructions:

 

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add about 2 tablespoons salt.

 

In a mortar (or a food processor) pound the garlic with the basil, mint, the almonds and a pinch of salt until you reach a creamy texture. Separately, pound the chilies, chili flakes and peeled tomatoes.  Blend the tomatoes into the basil/herb mixture, adding oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove pesto and place in a large serving bowl.

 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender yet al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well and add the pasta to the serving bowl with the pesto and toss like a salad to coat. Garnish with fat boy toasted bread crumbs and pecorino Siciliano grated tableside.