Rich, vibrant and insanely easy to make – this Pesto Rosso recipe (pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes as the main ingredient) is good reason to always keep a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand! It’s a fantastic multi-purpose condiment that you can use this as a dip, spread, on pizza, as a pasta sauce, or on fish or poultry. Make it dairy free or vegan friendly with only one easy swap if needed and enjoy!
What is pesto rosso?
A bit of pesto trivia for you: Pesto Rosso literally translates to ‘red pesto’. It’s sometimes also known as pesto alla siciliana (pesto from Sicily). It’s a variation of the traditional green basil pesto (formerly known as pesto alla genovese, or pesto from Genoa).
Green pesto is commonly made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and hard Italian cheeses. Though you can also find green pestos made with leafy greens like arugula in this Rocket Pesto recipe. Pesto Rosso is similar to green pesto sauce, but it’s made with with a Sicilian spin focusing on the flavors of Southern Italy through the addition of tomatoes.
What’s in this Pesto Rosso?
- sun dried tomatoes in oil – Make sure to use tomatoes packed in oil an not dried tomatoes. The oil makes them soft, sweet and easy to blend up. You also get the benefit of adding the whole jar, oil and all, which makes for less waste.
- extra virgin olive oil – You won’t need to add much or any olive oil in this recipe since I recommend adding the entire jar of sun-dried tomatoes. Simply add a small amount of oil as needed to blend your pesto to the desired consistency.
- tomato paste – Tomato paste is rich, creates a brilliant red hue and adds an extra layer of umami flavour.
- garlic cloves – What’s a pesto recipe without fresh garlic cloves to punch up your taste buds?
- fresh basil – Red sauces use less pesto than you would normally see in green basil pesto recipes, but the fresh basil is still necessary for providing a delicate, herby flavour.
- pine nuts – Traditional pesto rosso recipes use roasted almonds. You can certainly use almonds here if you’d prefer!
- grated parmesan – If you wanted to get technical with your cheese, look for parmigiano reggiano. Only cheese produced in Italy using a specific recipe can be given the formal name. Parmesan is simply an imitation of parmigiano reggiano – it can be made any where in the world using similar recipes. That being said – you can’t go wrong either way!
- salt & black pepper – No recipe is complete without one or both of these!
- red chili flakes – This is an optional ingredient. I think a bit of spice goes well with the robust flavours in this pesto but it’s up to you.
Make it Dairy Free
There are a couple of ways that you can go about making this recipe pesto.
- Option One: Swap out the parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast for a dairy free/vegan pesto option. Nutritional yeast will make up for the missing cheesy flavour and will also likely add an extra boost of goodness since nutritional yeast is often fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.
- Option Two: Skip the cheese/cheese substitute altogether. Between the sun dried tomatoes and the tomato paste your pesto will still have plenty of umami so don’t sweat it if you decide to go without.
Swap out the Pine Nuts
If you’d like to make a more classic red pesto recipe I recommend using roasted almonds in place of pine nuts – as that’s what is most commonly used in a more classic recipe. That being said, don’t feel limited to pine nuts or almonds. The great thing about pesto is that you can easily swap out the nut component for a variety of different nuts and seeds. Instead of pine kernels you can use:
- cashew nuts
- brazil nuts
- sun flower seeds or pepitas/hulled pumpkin seeds (great if you’d like a nut-free alternative)
Great for Meal Prep
This pesto is a great recipe to whip up early on in the week to pull out for a variety of different meals depending on your mood.
- Spread it on to pizzas or mix it into the pizza sauce.
- Use it as a sandwich spread for a quick lunch.
- Get your snack on which veggies by using it as a dip.
- Serve it mixed into pasta as a robust sauce.
- Add it to chicken or fish recipes.
The options are endless!
How long will this keep? Homemade pesto can be kept for up to five days if stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge.
Freeze for later: If you want to keep this sauce safely past the five day mark – freeze it! I love to freeze pesto and other sauces in ice cube trays. It stores easily and is great for when you want a little more control or portion sizes and use.
Don’t forget to #asaucykitchen on instagram if you try this Sun Dried Tomato Pesto! We love seeing what you make! You can also post your pictures to my facebook page!
- 2 cups | 220 g or 8 oz sun dried tomatoes from a jar packed in oil (weighed without oil)
- 3/4 cup | 180 ml olive oil (use the oil from the jar - add more oil to get the right amount if needed)
- 2 tablespoons | 32 g tomato paste
- 1/2 cup | 45 g grated parmesan or nutritional yeast (nutritional yeast for dairy free option)
- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil
- 1/3 cup | 45 g pine nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
- Add everything to a food processor and blend into a thick paste. Stop and scrape down the sides if needed.
- Blend into your desired consistency. For a thinner sauce, add more olive oil as needed.
- You must use sun dried tomatoes packed in oil - dried tomatoes not in oil are harder and have less flavour needed for this recipe.
- Ideally you want use sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil if your can find it.
- Make it dairy free: use nutritional yeast, vegan parmesan or skip the cheese altogether.