Sicilian Lemon Almond Pesto with Spaghettoni

The flavors of this lemon almond pesto are the essence of Sicily. For starters, we’re using Noto Romana almonds, the most almond-y almonds on the planet. This heirloom variety was brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to the efforts of the Assenza family, owners of Caffè Sicilia, the undisputed Mecca of Sicilian Pastry. They felt without these almonds, a key component of true Sicilian flavor would be lost to time. So rejoice and make this pesto!

Yes, you may think it’s strange to add candied peel to your pasta, but don’t knock it ’til you try it. In fact, Corrado Assenza scorns the strict border between sweet and savory we’ve imposed on ourselves (remember the oyster granita?) He encourages everyone to experiment and push their boundaries. Plus, wouldn’t you say there’s something poetic in uniting two Caffè Sicilia ingredients on the same plate?


TIME: 30 minutes



  1. Preheat to the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Scatter the almonds across a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow to cool completely.
  2. In a mortar and pestle (or mixer), thoroughly crush the almonds until no large chunks remain. At this point, you could incorporate a small clove of garlic, if you must. (Remember: garlicky is not a flavor in Italy.)
  3. Next add the lemon zest and Vacche Rosse cheese, followed by the lemon juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  4. Cook the pasta in a small amount of boiling, salted water. You will combine the pasta water with the pesto to form the sauce, so you want it to be extra starchy and salted to your liking.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Off the heat, return the pasta to the pot along with the almond lemon pesto and a hefty splash of pasta water. Coax the pesto into a sauce, adding more pasta water and extra virgin olive oil until it clings creamily to the spaghettoni.
  6. Divide between bowls and serve immediately, sprinkled with the diced lemon canditi.

lemon almond pesto mortar and pestle