Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto (Pesto Rosso | Red Pesto)

5 from 4 votes
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Sun-dried tomato pesto (Pesto Rosso) is a vibrant, robust, and rich homemade red pesto, made with just a handful of ingredients and perfect for adding to pasta, over proteins, in sandwiches, and more!

Red pesto in a small bowl

I have something to admit. Even though I whip up a batch of basil pesto monthly, this is the first time I’ve made my own red pesto, in the form of this sun-dried tomato pesto (pesto rosso). To prepare this tasty condiment, all you need is a handful of pantry-friendly ingredients, a food processor or mortar and pestle, and under 30 minutes (or just minutes if using canned peppers)!

By making this Sicilian pesto at home, you can control the flavor, texture, and batch size. Even better, though, it’s freezer-friendly, so I recommend whipping up a massive batch to store in the freezer for whenever needed. And with dozens of ways to use this pesto with sundried tomatoes, you’ll be wanting to have this on-hand at all times!

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What is Pesto Rossi?

Pesto rosso (also called pesto alla trapanese or pesto alla siciliana) translates to “red pesto” and refers to a Sicilian pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes. Traditionally, the recipe combines sun-dried tomatoes with garlic, basil, almonds (in place of pine nuts), olive oil, and salt and pepper. However, there are various regional (and family) versions.

Red pesto in a blender

For this version, I’ve made the red pesto with a combination of tomato and red pepper and used pine nuts instead of almonds. However, there are several ways to adapt the recipe based on what you have available.

Either way, the result is a vibrant, rich pesto with a sweet, tangy, savory flavor. Perfect for using in all the ways that you’d use “regular” basil pesto. I also have a recipe for traditional Italian basil pesto, as well as arugula pesto and carrot leaf pesto, if you’re interested!

The Ingredients

  • Sun-dried tomatoes: I use homemade sun-dried tomatoes, but you can use store-bought too. You can use dry or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes for this red pesto.

If you use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, make sure that they are plain, as many come with added herbs and flavorings.

  • Red pepper: roasted red peppers add incredible depth to the red pesto. I always use homemade roasted peppers, though canned may work, too (but will be “wetter”).
  • Pine nuts: I used pine nuts in this version. However, you could also use raw almonds for a more traditional pesto rosso.
  • Parmesan: I recommend using high-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano OR Pecorino. If you are a vegetarian, look out for a vegetarian-friendly parmesan. For a vegan version, read the section below.
  • Garlic: adjust the number of garlic cloves to your personal taste. You could also use a combination of raw and roasted garlic for extra depth of flavor.
  • Basil: while you don’t need as much as regular green pesto, fresh basil leaves are still a delicious addition to this pesto with tomatoes.
  • Olive oil: use high-quality extra virgin olive oil for this sun-dried tomato pesto recipe.
  • Salt & Pepper: season to taste.
Ingredients for red pesto (pesto rosso)

Optional Add-ins and Variations

  • Lemon: use fresh lemon juice for extra tang. Alternatively, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even balsamic vinegar would work in this tomato basil pesto.
  • Red pepper flakes: add a pinch in the roasted garlic salad dressing for some heat. Alternatively, you could add some Aleppo pepper flakes.
  • Paprika: add a pinch of either smoked or hot paprika based and adjust to taste.
  • Sesame oil: you could substitute the olive oil for sesame oil for extra flavor in the tomato pesto sauce/paste.
  • Rosemary: swap out the basil for fresh rosemary for a different aromatic flavor in this red pesto. Oregano would also work.
  • Parsley: add a handful of parsley alongside the basil for extra greens.
  • Olives: adding just a few pitted olives deepens the tangy, salty flavor of the pesto with sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Capers: will add tang and salty flavor, so you can add less salt to the sun-dried tomato pesto recipe.
  • Vegan sun-dried tomato pesto: swap out the parmesan for nutritional yeast or omit it entirely.

How to Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto (Pesto Rossi)?

First, if you aren’t using canned peppers or pre-roasted peppers, you’ll need to roast the red peppers. To do so:

Slice the peppers In half, removing the seeds and ribs. Then place cut-side down on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil, and roast for around 25 minutes at 325ºF/170ºC (or until tender and lightly blackened on the skin).

Roasted red pepper

Then, allow the peppers to steam and cool for 10 minutes in a jar/covered bowl before carefully peeling the skin away. Once peeled, allow the roasted peppers to cool.

Then, transfer all the red pesto ingredients to either a food processor or mortar and pestle and grind/blend the sun-dried tomato pesto into your desired consistency (chunky, smooth, or anything in between).

Steps for blending red pesto

How to Make Ahead and Store?

Make ahead: you can roast the red peppers several (2-3) days in advance and store them, peeled, in a container in the fridge. You could also pre-prepare the sun-dried tomatoes in advance.

Store: store any leftover tomato pesto sauce/paste in an airtight container (I use a jar) in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. The olive oil will solidify when chilled, but it will still be scoopable. It can quickly be brought back to room temperature before use (or added straight to any recipe where it’ll be cooked like sun-dried tomato pesto pasta).

Freeze: you can freeze this pesto with tomatoes in a large freezer-safe container. However, I prefer to portion it into 1 Tbsp portions in an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a Ziplock bag and store them for up to 6 months. Defrost in the fridge or on the counter as needed.

Red pesto in a cup

How to Use Pesto Rosso?

There are absolutely tons of ways to enjoy this sun-dried tomato pesto, including:

Honestly, I could write an entire post about using this tomato basil pesto. What is your favorite way to enjoy it?

Pasta with red pesto

FAQs

Can I substitute the nuts?

For a more traditional pesto rosso, use almonds. However, pesto recipes are fairly versatile, so feel free to experiment with other nuts or seeds. I.e., walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds.

Can I use roasted tomatoes instead of sun-dried?

Though I haven’t tried, I wouldn’t recommend it. The combination of roasted peppers and tomatoes would make a very “wet,” almost salsa-like mixture, rather than a traditional, thick red pesto paste.

Are sun-dried tomatoes bad for you?

As with many ingredients, they can be bad for you if eaten in excess. Sun-dried tomatoes are just tomatoes will moisture content removed through very low heat, so they largely have the same health benefits as regular tomatoes, but in a concentrated package.

Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Allow it to “marinate”: while you can enjoy the pesto rosso immediately, it’ll taste even better after marinating for an hour (or, even better, overnight!).
  • Using dried vs. oilpacked sun-dried tomatoes: if you use the latter, the tomatoes will already be slightly plump with oil, so you can reduce the amount in the recipe by a tablespoon or so.
  • If you use oilpacked tomatoes: make sure to use some of the oil from the jar. Having sat with the tomatoes, it’s wonderfully infused with flavor.
  • Easily adjust the consistency: you can decide how chunky or smooth you prefer your pesto with tomatoes based on how much you use the food processor/ mortar and pestle. I prefer mine slightly chunky.
  • Use raw or toasted pine nuts: using toasted pine nuts (or almonds) will infuse the pesto rosso with extra flavor. Lightly toast in a skillet until fragrant.

More Tomatoey Recipes

If you try this sun-dried tomato pesto recipe (pesto rosso), I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto (Pesto Rosso | Red Pesto)

5 from 4 votes
By: Samira
Sun-dried tomato pesto (Pesto Rosso) is a vibrant, robust, and rich homemade red pesto, made with just a handful of ingredients and perfect for adding to pasta, over proteins, in sandwiches, and more.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 
 

  • 7 oz sun dried tomatoes 1 cup; dry packed or oil-packed
  • 6.7 oz red pepper fresh to roast or jarred/canned
  • 1.8 oz pine nuts 1/2 cup; OR almonds
  • 1.8 oz parmesan cheese use vegetarian if preferred or omit and use nutritional yeast for vegan
  • 1 clove garlic adjust amount to taste
  • 0.5 oz basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

This will yield about 2 cups/1 lb/490 g red pesto

Instructions 

  • If you aren't using canned peppers or pre-roasted peppers, you’ll need to roast the red peppers. To do so:
    Slice the peppers In half, removing the seeds and ribs. Then place cut-side down on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil, and roast for around 25 minutes at 325ºF/170ºC (or until tender and lightly blackened on the skin).
  • Allow the peppers to steam and cool for 10 minutes in a jar/covered bowl before carefully peeling the skin away. Once peeled, allow the roasted peppers to cool.
  • Transfer all the red pesto ingredients to either a food processor or mortar and pestle and grind/blend the pesto into your desired consistency (chunky, smooth, or anything in between).

How to Make Ahead and Store?

  • Make ahead: you can roast the red peppers several (2-3) days in advance and store, peeled in a container in the fridge. You could also pre-prepare the sun-dried tomatoes in advance.
    Store: store any leftover tomato pesto sauce/paste in an airtight container (I use a jar) in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. The olive oil will solidify when chilled, but it will still be scoopable. It can quickly be brought back to room temperature before using (or add straight to any recipe where it’ll be coked like sun-dried tomato pesto pasta.
    Freeze: you can freeze this pesto with tomatoes in a large freezer-safe container. However, I prefer to portion it into 1 Tbsp portions in an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a Ziplock bag and store for up to 6 months. Defrost in the fridge or on the counter as needed.

Notes

  • Allow it to “marinate”: while you can enjoy the pesto rosso immediately, it’ll taste even better after marinating for an hour (or, even better, overnight!).
  • Using dried vs. oilpacked sun-dried tomatoes: if you use the latter, the tomatoes will already be slightly plump with oil, so you can reduce the amount in the recipe by a tablespoon or so.
  • If you use oilpacked tomatoes: make sure to use some of the oil from the jar. Having sat with the tomatoes, it’s wonderfully infused with flavor.
  • Easily adjust the consistency: you can decide how chunky or smooth you prefer your pesto with tomatoes based on how much you use the food processor/mortar and pestle. I prefer mine slightly chunky.
  • Use raw or toasted pine nuts: using toasted pine nuts (or almonds) will infuse the pesto rosso with extra flavor. Lightly toast in a skillet until fragrant.
 
Check the blog post for tons of optional add-ins, serving suggestions, and answer to top FAQs!
Course: Condiment, DIYs
Cuisine: European, Italian
Freezer friendly: 6 Months
Shelf life: 5-7 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cup, Calories: 204kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 311mg, Potassium: 993mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 1025IU, Vitamin C: 40mg, Calcium: 146mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 4 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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