Pesto rosso is similar to traditional pesto, but with sun-dried tomatoes as the main flavor. The name "pesto rosso" literally means "red pesto" in Italian, referring to the color of the sun-dried tomatoes used in the recipe. This easy recipe has a rich flavor and takes less than five minutes to make. I normally make it while my pasta is cooking. It is that fast!
Whether you love unconventional flavors or can’t resist sun-dried tomatoes, this pesto rosso recipe is perfect. Pesto rosso translates to "red pesto" and has a beautiful deep red color and a strong flavor that is difficult to beat.
Made with simple ingredients in just a few minutes, this recipe pairs perfectly with pasta, meats, and fish and tastes delicious as a sandwich spread. This delightful sauce adds a pop flavor to any dish. If daring, try using this pasta puttanesca recipe instead of tomato sauce.
I recommend making this recipe in large batches and freezing individual servings in ice cube trays. When you are ready, all you have to do is warm it up for 20 seconds in the microwave, and it is ready to go!
What Is Pesto Rosso?
Pesto Rosso, which means "red pesto" in Italian, is a traditional green pesto sauce variation. Instead of the usual basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pesto rosso is made with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, almonds or pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
The sun-dried tomatoes give the sauce its distinctive red color and add a sweet and warm flavor. Pesto Rosso can be used instead of Pesto Alla Genovese for pasta and pizza or as a spread on sandwiches or bruschetta.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Easy Recipe - Place all ingredients in a food processor, and you are done!
- Super Fast to Make - I make this recipe while my pasta cooks.
- Versatile and Adaptable– Use it as a spread, dip, condiment, or with your favorite pasta. It is that versatile!
What Type of Sun-Dried Tomatoes to Use?
There are a few different types of sun-dried tomatoes that you can buy, and they vary in texture, flavor, and moisture content. I find the availability at my local Kroger changes with the seasons. Here are four of the most common types:
- Regular Sun-Dried Tomatoes: These tomatoes have been dried in the sun or in a dehydrator until completely dry. This process concentrates the tomato's natural sweetness and flavor, giving them a chewy texture and a slightly sweet taste. They have a chewy texture and a concentrated, slightly sweet tomato flavor. These are easy to find, and most stores will carry them. I find them tucked away in the produce section at my local Kroger. Before using regular sun-dried tomatoes, you will need to rehydrate them.
- Semi-Dried Tomatoes: These are partially dried and have a softer texture than regular sun-dried tomatoes. They may also be sold in oil, giving them a richer flavor and making them easier to blend into a pesto.
- Oil-Packed Sun-Dried Tomatoes: These tomatoes are fully dried and then packed in oil, which gives them a softer texture and a richer, more intense flavor. I prefer to use oil-packed tomatoes and add the oil to the pesto.
- Seasoned Sun-Dried Tomatoes: These tomatoes are flavored with herbs, garlic, or other seasonings before being dried. They can add flavor to this recipe and change the overall flavor. If you are using seasoned tomatoes, read the ingredients and weigh if the seasonings will add flavor or complicate the desired flavor. a
I prefer sun-dried tomatoes in oil every time. I substitute the olive oil in this recipe for the oil the tomatoes are packed in. I do that because the oil is bursting with flavor! While that is my preference, it might not be yours. Use the list to determine which type of dried tomato you prefer.
In the Mood for Something Else?
Sun-dried Tomatoes - This is the main ingredient in Pesto Rosso, giving the sauce its distinct red color and sweet, tangy flavor.
Basil - Fresh basil leaves help balance the sun-dried tomatoes' sweetness.
Garlic - Fresh garlic cloves add a slightly spicy flavor, adding depth to the overall taste.
Pine Nuts or Amonds - Nuts add a nutty and creamy texture to the sauce while giving it a slightly earthy and toasty flavor.
Parmesan cheese - Adds a salty and savory flavor to the sauce while providing a rich and creamy texture.
Olive Oil - This is used as a base and helps to blend all the ingredients together; olive oil also gives the sauce a smooth and creamy texture.
Salt - Helps to bring out the natural flavors of the other ingredients while also balancing out any sweetness or acidity in the sauce. You can use a table, sea, or kosher salt.
Black Pepper - adds an extra layer of flavor and a hint of spiciness while balancing out the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes.
This recipe is so quick and straightforward that you must place the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency. If the pesto is too dry, add additional olive oil.
It is really that easy!
Sun-dried tomato pesto recipes can be made in numerous variations by substituting some ingredients. Some of these variations include:
- Basil- If you aren’t a fan of basil, it can always be substituted with other greens such as parsley, spinach, or arugula.
- Parmesan Cheese- can be substituted with asiago cheese or romano cheese.
- Pine Nut - can be swapped with walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pecans.
- Roasted Almonds - If you want to intensify the flavor, try adding roasted almonds. You can roast them yourself or buy them roasted at the store. The roasting adds warmth to your pesto.
- Vegan - If you want to keep the recipe vegan, add nutritional yeast instead of cheese, or skip the cheese altogether.
- Additional Meditarrian flavor - Add capers, olives, or artichoke hearts to bring out additional Meditarrian flavor.
- Dip - Mix rosso with cream cheese to create a flavorful dip. Serve with toasted homemade bread.
- Nut Free - Omit the nuts for a nut-free pesto. Add unsalted sunflower seeds instead to add an earthy flavor.
- Roasted vegetables - If you use this pesto to make a meal, add roasted vegetables. Some vegetables that will pair well include red peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms
- Spicy- We like spice in everything. Add crushed red pepper or Aleppo pepper to add heat.
Sun-dried tomato pesto is versatile, which means you can devour it with numerous dishes, including:
- Bruschetta - Cut bread into individual slices or rounds. Toast the bread and top with sundried tomato pesto. I like to sprinkle kalamata olives on top of the bruschetta pesto.
- Dip - To create a delicious dip, mix it with cream cheese. I recommend serving it with fresh bread or as a roasted veggie dip.
- Sandwich - use in place of mayo or mustard.
- Pasta - Mix freshly cooked pasta, gnocchi, or zucchini noodles to make sun-dried tomato pesto pasta. Try adding pesto rosso to pasta puttanesca for a perfect Italian pasta dish.
- Salad Dressing - It can be made into a fantastic salad dressing with red wine vinegar (or lemon juice) and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pizza sauce - Spread evenly across the pizza dough and use in place of tomato sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sun-dried tomatoes are used as the base instead of fresh basil leaves, giving them a beautiful red color. Moreover, this recipe includes a couple of basil leaves to add a fresh taste. Some people also add roasted red peppers or chili. On the contrary, basil is made with basil as the primary ingredient, along with parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts. The difference doesn’t lie in color only but in the ingredients.
The traditional recipe is not vegan. The sauce uses garlic, basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and oil. However, you can easily remove dairy and use non-dairy cheese or nutritional yeast to make it vegan. You can also leave out the cheese or swap it with nutritional yeast.
Yes, but the texture will be impacted. Start by using half the amount of needed tomatoes and add tomato paste. After blending, cook in a small saucepan for a few minutes to thicken the sauce.
Refrigerator storage instructions - Yes, place it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. When chilled, the oils in the sauce will solidify. Bring it to room temperature before serving; it will be delicious and spreadable again.
Freezer storage instructions - Place in a small container or use an ice cube tray to freeze individual portions. Once frozen, place the cubes in a Ziploc bag or other airtight container. Before using it, I recommend placing it in the fridge for a day to let it defrost.
Did you make this? Leave a comment below and let me know how it turned out. You can also take a picture and tag me on Facebook.
Pesto Rosso (SunDried Tomato Pesto)
- 1 Food Processor
- 4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, preferbly packed in oil
- ¼ cup basil leaves
- ¼ cup grated parmesan chees or vegan cheese alternative
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional
- Place the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic into a food processor. Slowly add the olive oil while pulsing until you reach the desired consistency. (Genrerlly pulse 3 - 5 times.)4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, preferbly packed in oil, ¼ cup basil leaves, ¼ cup grated parmesan chees or vegan cheese alternative, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional
I love this so much especially in the winter time! So great on toasted baguette.
Trader Joe's has a pretty great parmesan cheese alternative that is vegan, I just add at the very end so it doesn't completely dissolve and fall apart in the food processor.
Thank you! I am so happy you liked it! I use the Follow your Heart Brand I get at Kroger, Next time I am at Trader's I will pick up their parmesan and give it a try.