Gino's sun-dried cherry tomato pesto

Updated on Nov 03, 2016 by Kathryn Burrington

Blog > Gino's sun-dried cherry tomato pesto

Kathryn from Sicilian Places pays a visit to the farm of Gino, a producer of traditionally dried tomatoes on the island of Sicily.

Standing under the heat of the noon day sun in Sicily I’m starting to wonder if my face might soon match the colour of the cherry tomatoes that surround me – row, after row, after row of round red deliciousness, drying in the glorious sunshine; the end result of one man’s dream of selling a top quality organic, eco-friendly product, typical of his beloved Sicily and bringing it to dining tables all around the world.

The dream belonged to Giorgio Agosta, known locally as Gino (pictured above), a former prison officer who left this secure job in search of something more. Traditionally dried tomatoes in Sicily used larger tomatoes and a lot of salt. The end result was hard and very salty which Gino didn’t like, he explained, so he started looking for a way to improve the process. Gino refined the method using cherry tomatoes and less salt to produce a softer and more flavourful dried tomato.

I was visiting a number of food producers in this south-east corner of the island. And so I found myself among the drying cherry tomatoes chatting to Gino on his farm Agriblea in the Val di Noto just 2km from Ispica and 8km from the Mediterranean Sea. It was becoming clear that the passion people here have for their work and their products shines through in the flavours of their food.

Gino’s tomatoes are so good that his business was an instant success and some 12 years later they are exported all around the world. What’s particularly remarkable is that he’s never needed to market his product; his tomatoes sell themselves.

The business is very much a family affair with his wife and two children working alongside him and in the height of the season they employ some 50 workers. Relaxing in the shade of the family’s veranda, a cool glass of wine and a taste of their tomatoes, on bread drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, was most welcome. And of course I brought some home with me, eager to try Gino’s recipe for sun-dried cherry tomato pesto.

 

Sun-dried Cherry Tomato Pesto

Ingredients

  • 50g Agriblea organic, sun-dried cherry tomatoes
  • 250g mascarpone
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A generous handful of basil leaves
  • 1 table spoon of parmigiano reggiano

 

Method

  1. Put the tomatoes, olive oil and basil into a blender and blend for around 20 seconds.
  2. Add the mascarpone and blend for 15 seconds.
  3. Lastly add the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend for a further 15 seconds.
  4. Season and serve with spaghetti or fusilli pasta.
 

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