This Homemade Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce (Pesto Rosso, Red Pesto) is a Sicilian variation of the traditional basil pesto. It has a deep, sweet, and tangy flavor and is very versatile. Made using a handful of ingredients, this pesto comes together in just 5 minutes (gluten-free, can be easily made vegan).
About This Recipe
Love tomatoes? Love basil? Then, you are in for a treat with this amazing Homemade Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce (Pesto Rosso, Red Pesto) which is a fun twist to your traditional basil pesto.
Rich red in color, this tomato pesto is tangy, slightly sweet, savory, and loaded with umami flavor from the dried tomatoes. This condiment is addictive, flavorful, and super versatile.
Pesto Rosso comes to my rescue on days when I come back home tired from work or it’s a school night and I have no time to put together a meal. I just toss my favorite pasta, roasted vegetables, or grilled chicken in this delicious sauce and a delicious meal is ready in no time.
Although red pesto is available in the market easily these days, I prefer making it at home. Homemade is free of any chemicals, colors, and preservatives. It is made using the best ingredients and is still much economical. Plus it takes just a few minutes to bring together, so there is no excuse to not make it at home.
You can pre-make this delicious pesto over the weekend and keep using it for the whole week. You can also make a double batch and freeze some of it.
This recipe is gluten-free and can be easily made vegan. You can also half, double, or triple it as per your requirement.
Keep in consideration that the color of the pesto depends on the quality of tomatoes used. It could range from a deep red hue to a greyish red color pesto. Nonetheless, the taste will be awesome.
Ingredients, Substitutes & Variations
Sun Dried Tomatoes – Use dry sun-dried tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes packed in oil. If using the dry ones, you will have to use more oil while blending.
Find the dry sundried tomatoes in the produce section and the oil-packed ones in the aisle which have canned vegetables.
Also, try to pick the tomatoes which do not have anything else added. If using the ones with garlic and herbs added to it, reduce the amount of these two ingredients in the recipe.
The color of the pesto will depend upon the type of sun-dried tomatoes you use.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Oil adds great texture to the pesto along with a nice flavor. Make sure you use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
Parmesan Cheese – Replace parmesan cheese with Pecorino or Asiago if it’s not available. Replace it with nutritional yeast for a vegan pesto.
Toasted Almonds – Toast the almonds before adding them to the pesto. While toasting, make sure you toast on low heat, otherwise, there are chances that the almonds will get burnt.
You can also replace the almonds with pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, or pistachios. A mix of nuts will also work great.
Sunflower seeds are also a great substitute for nuts.
Basil Leaves – While selecting basil leaves, look out for the fresh ones as they are very aromatic and add a delicious flavor.
You can also replace fresh basil leaves with other herbs (greens) like mint, parsley, spinach, arugula, cilantro, or kale.
Rosemary – Another herb that plays an important role in this pesto is rosemary. This is optional but adds a great taste. I used dried rosemary but you can use a fresh one too.
Others – You will also need garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust the red pepper flakes as per your taste.
Add some extra flavor by adding oil-cured black olives, artichokes, roasted eggplant, avocado, or roasted red bell peppers to the recipe.
You can also add some lemon juice, a splash of white wine, or balsamic vinegar for slight tanginess along with a refreshing flavor.
In some regions of Italy, fresh ripe cherry tomatoes are used to make pesto rosso (red pesto) instead of sun dried tomatoes. You can try that variation too.
How To Make Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce
Peel garlic and shred the parmesan cheese.
Toast the almonds. Add them to a pan and toast on low heat for 6-8 minutes until fragrant and lightly colored. Stir frequently while toasting. You can also toast them in an oven. Spread the almonds on a baking tray and toast for 6-8 minutes in a preheated oven to 350 degrees F.
You can also coarsely chop the sun dried tomatoes and crush the toasted almonds for easy blending.
Gather the remaining ingredients.
Make The Pesto
Add 2 cups dry sun dried tomatoes (or sun dried tomatoes soaked in oil), 3-4 cloves of garlic (peeled), 2 cups extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup toasted whole almonds, 1 cup (packed) basil leaves, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese to a high-speed blender or a food processor and blend until a slightly coarse paste is made.
Scrape the sides of the blender a few times.
Note – If using sun dried tomatoes soaked in oil, use 1 cup of oil instead of 2 cups. Use the oil in which they were soaked to blend the pesto as the oil also has a lot of flavor.
Transfer the pesto to a clean airtight glass jar. Refrigerate for 5-6 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Note – This recipe will make approximately 2 and ½ cups of pesto. You can easily half, double, or triple the recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to make a vegan version of this pesto, skip adding the parmesan cheese or replace it with 2-3 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
You can choose sundried plum tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, Roma tomatoes or whichever variety is easily available.
Skip the nuts to make a nut-free tomato pesto. You will hardly feel any difference and the pesto still tastes very delicious.
You can make this pesto by skipping the basil or replacing it with other herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint.
This is a very versatile sauce and tastes good with almost everything.
I like to use it as a spread for pizza, flatbreads, crostini, bruschetta, or crusty Italian bread topped with some feta or goat cheese. It works as a great sandwich spread too.
It makes for an awesome pasta sauce. Toss any cooked pasta like penne, spaghetti, fettuccine, etc with this pesto and make tomato pesto pasta. If the sauce is too thick, thin it down with some cooking water. If you want to make a creamy sauce, add some heavy cream to it.
Serve it as a dip with crackers or pita chips.
Roasted cauliflower topped with pesto Rosso tastes amazing. You can also drizzle it over roasted veggies, gnocchi, boiled eggs, or soups.
Slather it while making grilled cheese, panini or sandwiches.
Serve it on the side with roasted chicken breasts or seafood.
Top it over fried or boiled eggs for a healthy breakfast.
Transfer the leftover pesto to a non-reactive airtight container and keep it refrigerated for up to 5-6 days.
You can even freeze it in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. I like to store it in ice cube trays. By doing so, I can just thaw one or two cubes as per my requirement instead of thawing the entire batch.
When you keep it in the fridge for a few hours, the oil will solidify. Thaw it on the counter for a few hours to let it come to room temperature before using.
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Homemade Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce Recipe (Pesto Rossa, Red Pesto)
- 2 cups sun dried tomatoes (dry or soaked in oil)
- 3-4 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil (use 1 cup of oil if using sun-dried tomatoes soaked in oil)
- ¼ cup toasted whole almonds (crush them if your blender is not heavy-duty)
- 1 cup basil leaves (packed)
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (skip or use nutritional cheese for vegan pesto)
- Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender or a food processor and blend until a slightly coarse paste is made.
- Scrape the sides of the blender a few times.
- Transfer the pesto to a clean airtight glass jar. Refrigerate for 5-6 days or freeze for up to 3 months.