With a nod to the flavors of Italy, this sun dried tomato pesto recipe — aka pesto rosso — requires just a handful of ingredients. It is the perfect spread for a toasted baguette to make a simple and delicious meal.
Need more meal inspiration? Check out these Italian recipes you can make at home!
What is Pesto?
Often times we think of pesto as the green mixture that’s made from fresh basil leaves.
But! The word pesto is derived from the Italian verb pestare, meaning to crush.
So while traditional basil pesto is certainly the most familiar, you’d find broccoli, artichoke, or any other number of flavors of pesto in markets or grocery stores in Italy. It is made by crushing ingredients together, or more likely in this day and age, using a blender or food processor to puree them.
This easy sauce requires just a few simple ingredients and a quick whir in the food processor. The richness of sun-dried tomatoes in oil lends a delicious flavor to this red pesto.
A Great Last-Minute Appetizer
If you keep a jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil on hand, you can whip this up in a hurry. Honestly, it’s a great recipe to keep tucked away for last-minute guests. Add it to a charcuterie board, pour it over cream cheese and serve it with crackers, or stir some into sour cream or mayonnaise and serve with crunchy breadsticks.
Garlic: This pungent bulb adds plenty of flavor to this homemade pesto. Peel the cloves and let the food processor do the work of chopping.
Sun-dried tomatoes: Drying tomatoes condenses the tomato flavor. Packing them in olive oil makes them a deliciously chewy addition to many recipes. Every fridge should have a jar of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes tucked in the back! For best results, do not use dry sundried tomatoes; it just won’t turn out well.
Oil: Use extra-virgin olive oil for the richest flavor, though regular olive oil will work fine.
Almonds: This is a twist on the pine nuts that are commonly used in pest recipes. Toasting them brings out the nutty flavor.
Italian seasoning: This blend of seasonings combines oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme.
You’ll need a food processor or high-speed blender to create this recipe easily. If you don’t have one of these, you could use a knife to chop the ingredients very small, but it will be time-consuming.
Simply measure all of the ingredients together into the bowl of a food processor or blender carafe and process to a fine chop. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times to catch larger pieces.
The texture of this pesto is up to you. You can leave it slightly chunky as you see here, or if you prefer a finer, creamier texture, you can process it longer. It kind of depends how you plan to use it. You might want it processed well if you plan to add it to a salad dressing, but bigger pieces of tomatoes and nuts will add a little texture and crunch to a pasta salad.
If there’s any leftover pesto, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Next time, think about making a double batch of this delicious spread, divide it into ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen, pop the cubes into a freezer safe container and use them to add flavor to recipes as you cook.
To use the frozen pesto cubes, you can add them to soups without thawing. For use as an addition to items like dips and salad dressings, thaw before stirring into the recipe.
If you wish to make this ahead as an appetizer, you can store the whole batch in a larger freezer safe container and thaw completely before serving.
Using the Pesto
This easy-to-make condiment is the perfect way to amp up flavor on any number of meals.
- Add it to cooked pasta for a simple tomato pesto pasta
- Serve it at room temperature with toasted slices of bread
- Stir it into pasta salad
- Spread it over chicken breasts, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and bake
- Add a spoonful to salad dressings
- Amp up store bought pasta sauce by stirring in a spoonful or two
- Serve it alongside any pasta dish as an extra condimente
- Use it instead of pizza sauce for an easy and flavorful topping
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup almonds, toasted (see below)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula a couple of times.
- Drizzle a little of balsamic vinegar and a little extra olive oil over the top of the pesto for serving as a dip or spread.
- Measure almonds into a dry skillet. Cook over medium heat.
- When you begin to smell the aroma of roasted nuts, stir the almonds.
- Continue cooking until the nuts are toasted on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Turn the hot nuts out onto a plate to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Spread walnut pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Place tray in oven for 5-to-10 minutes or until they begin
to brown and become aromatic.
- Turn the hot almonds out onto a plate to cool.
Toasting almonds on the stove top
Toasting almonds in the oven
Squeeze lemon juice into the ingredients for a little bit of tanginess.
Use a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, NOT the dry tomatoes.