Sun-dried Tomato Pesto (Pesto Rosso)

Sun-dried tomato pesto is a zesty take on the regular green basil pesto. A jar of sun-dried tomatoes blitzed in a food processor with regular pesto ingredients, gives a flavorsome and versatile dish which can be added to salads, daubed on breads, mixed into pasta or slathered on pizzas!

A bowl of vibrant red sun-dried tomato pesto or Pesto Rosso.

A jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil provides a flavorsome and chunky base to this pesto. Other standard ingredients include green basil, added for its fresh and sweet flavor and toasted almonds for their taste and texture. Parmesan cheese brings in umami and required saltiness and garlic adds its unmistakable pungent taste.

The word “pesto” in Genoese means to “to pound” or “to crush”. Rosso in Italian is red. Hence, Sun-dried tomato pesto is also known as Pesto Rosso or Red Pesto.

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Why do I need to make sun-dried tomato pesto?

Indeed, a very relevant question, especially when you already have a perfectly good Basil Pesto recipe in your kitty. Well, let me put it this way. Imagine you have two performers on stage. They are both excellent singers and you think that they are simply amazing. But then, one of them breaks out into a dance move! The crowd goes wild as he spins and kicks and adds a spectacular dimension to the show. The sun-dried tomatoes in the recipe do exactly that. Add a zesty, punchy flavor to a pesto that is already a crowd favorite.

  • Sun-dried tomato pesto which blends beautifully with pasta, uplifts the taste of grilled vegetables, sticks to the crusty bread that is dipped into it and makes for an amazing pizza garnish. A star performer, each time, every time!
  • Quite easy and versatile to make. Take this recipe as a base and add or substitute ingredients as per your taste and preferences.
  • Do you need more reasons to make this versatile dish? I can think of one more. It can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and freezes beautifully for up to 3 months. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s grab the ingredients and start pounding!
Close up of sundried tomaote pesto in food processor.

Ingredients

  • Sun-dried tomatoes – Sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil work the best for this recipe.
  • Basil – Fresh Italian Basil leaves impart a sweet and herby flavor to the dish. Can be substituted with fresh sprigs of rosemary.
  • Almonds – Toasted almonds add a unique depth of flavor to the dish. You can substitute with pine-nuts which are a classic pesto ingredient or walnuts for a delicious nutty flavor. Just don’t skip toasting the nuts.
  • Parmesan – This cheese is ideal for pesto with its salty, savory flavor. I would recommend only Parmesan cheese for this recipe, but if you do not have it on hand or are vegan, you can skip it. Note – Always add Parmesan that is freshly grated from a block. Pre-grated cheese stored in bottles, usually use anti-caking agents to prevent lumping and lacks the same flavor.
  • Garlic
List of ingredients for pesto

Blitz those ingredients and give me some red!

  • Toast almonds in a stove-top or oven and let them cool.
  • Drain out the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar, keeping aside 1/4 cup that is to be added to the mix.
  • In a food processor, blend together sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic and parmesan until it comes together in a coarse mixture. Continue running the processor on low speed and add olive oil from the jar and some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Blend it well and within minutes you have a mouthwatering Red Pesto/ Pesto Rosso/ Sun-dried tomato pesto ready!

I prefer keeping it slightly coarse, instead of a fine paste

All ingredients except Olive oil added to the food processor.

Some questions…. with answers.

Is sun-dried tomato paste and pesto the same ?

No, these are two condiments with different ingredients and flavors. The sun-dried tomato paste will be a blend of tomatoes with olive oil and seasonings, giving it an intense tomatoey flavor. Whereas, the pesto is a blend of sun-dried tomatoes with basil, garlic, cheese and nuts which gives it a herby, nutty taste.

Can I use dry sun-dried tomatoes instead of the ones stored in Olive oil?

Yes, you can use. Rehydrate them by soaking them in hot water for 30mins to an hour. Squeeze out as much of the excess water as possible, as the addition of water drastically reduces the shelf life of the pesto. Also remember to increase the quantity of Olive oil to get spreadable consistency.

I hate to waste perfectly good olive oil from the jar. Any suggestions?

The olive oil that the sun-dried tomatoes are marinated in, retains its tomatoey flavor and can be reused. It can be used wherever regular olive oil is used. Roast vegetables in it, fry eggs or drizzle it over salads among other things.

Can I heat up the sun-dried tomato pesto?

No, I would not recommend heating or cooking the pesto as it will change the color and flavor of the dish. It is best used at room temperature.

Can I make my pesto spicy?

Though the pesto has hints of spice coming in from the garlic, feel free to add Red Pepper Flakes for some extra spice.

A bowl of chunky, herby, sun-dried tomato pesto.

My sun-dried tomato pesto is ready. What next?

  • Use it as a spread or a dip – Bake some tasty Focaccia or No-knead white bread. Use the pesto as a dip or spread it on some toasty slices to make delicious sandwiches.
  • Use it as a pasta sauce – Cook the pasta of your choice and retain some cooking water before draining the rest. Toss the pasta with a few spoons of the pesto, add the cooking water and mix well. Add the seasonings of your choice and you have a super quick Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta ready.
  • Use it in salads – Replace the regular pesto with red pesto in this Pesto Salad. The flavors of the red pesto are a bit intense compared to the regular pesto, so exercise caution when adding it. Taste and add more if needed.
  • Top it on anything – Add it to fried eggs, use it as a garnish on a pizza or make mundane roasted vegetables exciting with a dollop of this pesto. I would not recommend adding it as a pizza sauce before it goes into the oven, but more as a garnish once the pizza is baked and out of the oven.

How can I store it?

  • In the fridge – Sun-dried tomato pesto stores well in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Tip – Add a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto before storing, to retain its freshness and prevent discoloration.
  • In the freezer – Portion out the pesto into an ice cube tray and cover it with a layer of olive oil, to seal in the freshness. Close the lid and freeze it. Once frozen, remove and store the little pesto cubes in a freezer bag.
    Before using, pull out the necessary portions and leave them on the countertop to bring them to room temperature. You can also leave them overnight in the fridge. If it is necessary to use the microwave, use the defrost setting and stir intermittently. Ensure that you do not heat up or cook the pesto as it will lose it’s fresh taste and vibrant color.
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Sundried Tomato Pesto

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Sun-dried tomato pesto is a zesty take on the regular green basil pesto. A jar of sun-dried tomatoes blitzed in a food processor with regular pesto ingredients, gives a flavorsome and versatile dish which can be added to salads, daubed on breads, mixed into pasta or slathered on pizzas!
Servings 1.5 -2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 1 8 ounce Jar Sundried Tomato in olive oil
  • 1 cup Italian Basil tightly packed
  • cup Almond
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic
  • ¾ cup Olive Oil
  • cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Pepper

Instructions

  • Toast almonds on a pan and let them cool. Chop them roughly.
  • Drain oil from the sundried tomatoes. For Olive oil, use 1/4th cup of olive oil from the jar and the rest of plain olive oil to make the 3/4th cup to add to the pesto.
  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor except oilve oil. Process it until all the ingredients are finely chopped. While the food processor is still running slowly add olive oil to the mixture. Stop the food processor and scrap the sides of the bowl once or twice.
  • Sundried Tomato pesto is ready to use.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoon | Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 1.134mg | Potassium: 99mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1.028IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 353mg | Iron: 2mg
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