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Pesto Rosso (Sun Dried Tomato Pesto)

Pesto rosso is a delicious Italian condiment made with a handful of ingredients. This easy recipe adds a punch of flavor to many meals beyond pasta dishes and is naturally dairy-free.

What Is Red Pesto?

Pesto Rosso, also called red pesto, sun dried tomato pesto, or pesto alla siciliana, has a few of the same traditional pesto ingredients but with a more robust, tangy flavor.

Unlike traditional green pesto, the base is made of sweet sun-dried tomatoes and uses a smaller amount of fresh basil. Originally, almonds were used instead of pine nuts, but now there are many different variations.

Although you can find pesto rosso at some grocery stores, like anything, homemade pesto is the way to go for the best flavor. I also have yet to find one that doesn’t contain dairy.

Main Ingredients

  • Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes – look for a jar that uses extra-virgin olive oil for the best savory flavor.
  • Whole roasted red peppers – you can always make your own, but for ease, I use them from a jar. This adds more depth of flavor to the sauce.
  • Fresh basil leaves – a key ingredient in pesto.
  • Toasted walnuts – add a rich nuttiness.
  • Garlic cloves – flavor booster.
  • Lemon juice – adds brightness and balances out the rich flavor of the other ingredients.
  • Nutritional yeast – for extra umami flavor.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – flavor and texture.
  • Kosher salt – to taste.

See the recipe card for measurements.

How To Make Red Pesto

Step 1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until everything is well combined and has reached your desired consistency. 

Step 2. Taste, and add more salt and lemon juice as needed.

Make It Your Way: Ingredient Substitutions

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.

How can you make this sun dried tomato pesto using what you already have? Here are some ideas

  • No oil-packed sundried tomatoes? – if you can only find dry-packed tomatoes, you’ll also need to add ½ cup extra virgin olive oil in total to get the right consistency.
  • No walnuts? – use pine nuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds (toast them for the best flavor)
  • No nutritional yeast? – leave it out or use vegan parmesan cheese (or regular if not dairy-free).
  • Add-ins – red pepper flakes.

How To Store

Store in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 1 week or up to 3 months in the freezer. The best way to freeze pesto is to put it in a silicone ice cube tray and pop out little squares when you need to add a boost of flavor. Let them thaw overnight in the fridge or throw them directly into a warm pan.

How To Serve

There are many uses for pesto rosso, but these are a few of my favorite ways:

Helpful Tips

Use a food processor, not a blender. It’s easiest to make pesto in a food processor instead of a blender. You can learn about the differences between the two in this post.

Toast the nuts for optional flavor. Add the nuts to a dry pan over medium heat and toast until fragrant, stirring occasionally. It only takes a few minutes, but they can burn easily so keep a watchful eye.

More Pesto Recipes

Pesto Rosso (Sun Dried Tomato Pesto)

5 from 3 votes
A small bowl of homemade sun dried tomato pesto with a spoon next to jars of pesto rosso.
Pesto rosso is a delicious Italian condiment made with a handful of ingredients. This easy recipe adds a punch of flavor to many meals beyond pasta dishes and is naturally dairy-free.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 8.5 oz jar oil-packed sundried tomatoes see notes
  • 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar)
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • cup toasted walnuts or substitute, see notes
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt start with ¼ teaspoon if using any other kind, plus more to taste

Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor including the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes. Blend until everything is well combined and has reached your desired consistency. 
  • Taste, and add more salt and lemon juice as needed.

Notes

Makes 1½ cups.
See the blog post for helpful tips as well as ideas on how to use pesto rosso.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No oil-packed sundried tomatoes? – if you can only find dry-packed tomatoes, you’ll also need to add ½ cup extra virgin olive oil in total to get the right consistency.
No walnuts? – use pine nuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds (toast them for the best flavor)
No nutritional yeast? – leave it out or use vegan parmesan cheese (or regular if not dairy-free).
Add-ins – red pepper flakes.

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