Pesto Rosso packs bold flavor into one quick and easy recipe. Sicilian in origin, this sun-dried tomato pesto makes a delicious pasta sauce, panini spread, condiment for eggs, and more.
Far be it from me to besmirch traditional basil pesto in any way, but there's no getting around the fact that you need to have access to fresh basil (and lots of it) in order to make it. Oftentimes that's tough!
If my backyard herb garden isn't up and running, I've found it's nearly impossible to buy enough quality basil at the supermarkets near me to make a batch. And as someone who cooks with it often, subpar supermarket basil is a serious thorn in my side.
Basta! This pesto rosso recipe comes in clutch as a different but equally bold and delicious homemade substitute for basil pesto.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Flavor - Sun-dried tomatoes have a punchy tart and slightly fruity/sweet taste that's amplified by toasted almonds, balsamic vinegar, and lots of Pecorino Romano. I've tried multiple types of store-bought pesto rosso and found homemade by far to be the most flavorful.
- Less Basil - The same quantity of pesto rosso uses about half of the fresh basil leaves you'd need to make traditional pesto, making it more convenient.
- Versatility - In addition to pasta, pesto rosso has a great consistency for a sandwich spread, dolloping over eggs, and more.
- Freezes Well - This recipe yields a generous amount to both enjoy now and freeze for later.
What is Pesto Rosso?
Pesto Rosso ("Red Pesto") gets its color from sun-dried tomatoes and is thought to have originated in Sicily. Beyond the big base difference in ingredients when compared to basil pesto, pesto rosso recipes often use almonds in place of pine nuts and include balsamic vinegar.
But as with many Italian recipes, there are variations. Sometimes you'll see different fresh herbs used, like rosemary, or extra base ingredients added alongside the sun-dried tomatoes, like olives, roasted red peppers, or artichoke hearts.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Oil-packed (versus dry-packed) are the best option for making sun-dried tomato pesto as they're more flavorful and you don't need to rehydrate them before using.
- Almonds: These are unsalted. Toasting the almonds adds a deeper flavor, though it's not a crucial step.
- Pecorino: Grating this yourself is recommended for the best flavor, but buying a high-quality refrigerated tub of pre-grated from the deli case is a good option, too. Parmesan can also be used.
- Basil: This plays off of the sun-dried tomatoes to add a complementary flavor that doesn't overwhelm.
- Balsamic Vinegar: Two teaspoons to amplify the bright acidity from the tomatoes.
- Paprika: This is subtle but works in the background to tie together all of the flavors.
- Toast the Almonds - Add whole almonds to a dry sheet pan and roast at 325°F for 10 or so minutes, until the almonds become a deeper golden-brown and are becoming fragrant.
- Gather the Ingredients - Add everything but the oil to the bowl of a food processor. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes but reserve the oil from the jar.
- Blitz - Pulse until the mixture broken up into small, even bits. Stop to carefully scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed to incorporate everything.
- Add the Oil - With the food processor running, drizzle in the oil until the consistency is to your liking.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Jar Oil - Using the olive oil that comes in the jar with the sun-dried tomatoes is a cost-effective and tasty addition to homemade pesto rosso. It's infused with lots of tomato flavor.
- Sun-Dried Tomato Options - Some jarred sun-dried tomatoes come with the addition of herbs and spices. I like to stick with plain as you'll be adding fresh basil, though seasoned tomatoes would work fine if they're what you have, just know they'll have a small impact on the overall flavor.
- Freezing Instructions - Simply add leftover sun-dried tomato pesto to a zip-top bag, press out excess air, and freeze for several months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
- Yield - If replacing store-bought pesto rosso in a recipe, this homemade version will yield roughly 15 ounces in total. It's sufficient to generously coat one pound of pasta. When making it I often use half to dress 8 ounces of pasta, and freeze the other half for future use.
Uses for Pesto Rosso
- It makes a seriously good pasta sauce. You do not need to heat the pesto, simply toss with hot pasta.
- Its thicker consistency makes it easy to spread on sandwiches, crostini, etc. without it being too oily and making a mess.
- Dollop over eggs, into soups, over pizza, etc.
- Spread onto fish before baking.
More Pesto Recipes
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
- ½ cup whole raw almonds
- 1 8-ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes reserve the oil
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves fairly well-packed
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5-6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil see note
- Heat oven to 325°F. Add whole almonds to an ungreased sheet pan and roast for 10-12 minutes, or until they've turned a slightly deeper golden-brown and have become fragrant. Immediately transfer them to a plate or bowl to cool.
- Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and pour the oil from the jar through a strainer into a liquid measuring cup. Add enough olive oil to amount to the ⅔ cup line.
- Add roasted almonds, drained sun-dried tomatoes, basil, Pecorino, garlic, balsamic vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor (minimum 7-cup capacity). Process until everything is in small bits, stopping to carefully scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- With the motor running, drizzle oil through the pour spout and process until smooth. Add a little extra oil if you'd like a thinner consistency.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Note: This recipe was updated in March 2023 from its original publish date in November 2016. Initially this recipe included artichoke hearts, but I tweaked the recipe to be a more basic version of sun-dried tomato pesto. I also increased the yield.